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Video of the Moment #192: the xx

By on Thursday, 17th December 2009 at 6:00 pm

Back in the day, Carson Daly was a big deal in my and my friends’ lives. He hosted an afternoon show on MTV America called ‘Total Request Live’ (or ‘TRL’ for short) when the stars of the late ’90s music world – think boybands, poppy Shania Twain, Korn, and ‘Ray of Light’-era Madonna – would come on the show for a chat and perform. You know, kind of like what goes on now on ‘It’s on With Alexa Chung‘. But with a lot more character.

After ‘TRL’ was cancelled, Daly went off with the network with a peacock and was given a late-night talk show, ‘Last Call with Carson Daly’, filmed in Los Angeles. The show is on way too late past my bedtime, so if I’m ever going to see any of the performances, I have to wait for things to show up on YouTube like the one below. Last week, the xx performed ‘Crystalised’ on Daly’s show. And the video is prefaced with a decent bio on the band as well. Well worth a watch.



Live Review: Friendly Fires with the xx at Paradise Rock Club, Boston – 04 December 2009

By on Thursday, 10th December 2009 at 2:00 pm

a-paradiseHabits are hard to break. This particular habit of mine isn’t especially dangerous (I’m not including getting stepped on by drunks in Brooklyn) or detrimental (unless you count lack of sleep). This year, my worst habit of all has been looking longingly and futilely at Friendly Fires‘s tour dates and scheming ways to get to their gigs. Most of the time, an event is ridiculously expensive to get to that it’s worthless to even consider trying to go. (Two examples: Splendour in the Grass in Australia and Calvi on the Rocks, anyone?) Why all the scheming? The band has not returned to D.C. since they played here in March with White Lies on the NME Presents Tour, so if I’ve wanted to see them, I’ve had to travel. This time I went for the Nylon Magazine Winter Music Tour stop in Boston, Massachusetts – over 300 miles northeast of Washington. The Fires played a sold-out show there at the Paradise Rock Club with fellow Beggars Group act the xx.

I was lucky that night for a couple different reasons. One, I actually had a ticket in hand, unlike one of my good friends and many other people we met who arrived at the club early trying to find someone who had an extra or two to sell. I’m not sure how many people actually got in this way. Two, Boston was experiencing unseasonably mild weather (although the corduroy jacket I’d chosen to wear that night was still ill-advised, as when I stood outside of the club for a short time before the bar to the club opened, I thought my arms might freeze off). Three, I had seen the xx earlier at their in-store at Newbury Comics, and it sounded like some people at the gig were unaware that there had even been an in-store. Once inside, most people I talked to were most excited to bop along to Friendly Fires but they were interested in seeing the xx because the xx had never played in Boston before. I filled some people in on them, so I think I helped garner some additional excitement for the xx’s set.

e-xx4The xx Romy Madley-Croft on vocals and guitar, Oliver Sim on vocals and bass, and Jamie Smith on percussion and programming – came out from under the cover of darkness. A minimal show of coloured lights brightened the stage slightly during their set but kept things dramatic for the xx’s brand of dream pop. I’ve seen this band four times now (if you count the earlier in-store), and I have yet to be disappointed in their performance. The beauty of the vocals and guitar work of Madley-Croft and Sim have to be heard live to be believed. With its steamy lyrics and melodramatic percussion, ‘Infinity’ is my current favourite. If you don’t feel the desire within the song and it doesn’t start oozing out of your pores, you must not have a pulse. Since this was an opening slot, they only played eight songs. But they already have another North American jaunt scheduled for next year.

l-ffires5And then there were Friendly Fires. It seemed incomprehensible to me that I had seen them perform less than 4 months ago in New York; surely more time had passed than that? When Nylon Magazine announced back in July that Friendly Fires had been chosen to headline their first-ever Winter Music Tour to set the winter on fire, they weren’t kidding. For sure, this style of music is great year round but even more so in winter, when everyone’s suffering from seasonal affective disorder and wondering when the sun will shine again. That night at the Paradise, multicoloured lights shimmered brightly from the stage as Friendly Fires played hosts to a lively dance party.

A personal favourite, ‘Lovesick’, with its wicked bass lines from touring bassist Rob Lee and Jack Savidge‘s pounding backbeats, got the party started. Singer Ed Macfarlane shimmied like a man possessed on ‘In the Hospital’, the audience cheering him on with gusto. Edd Gibson ran around the stage with his guitar, eager to give every section of the venue some of his precious attention. I admired the way the band powered through the high-octane ‘On Board’. (Incidentally, the song will be available on an extremely limited edition 12″ at specialist record shops and at their dance party at London’s Coronet on Friday.) The band’s energetic routine lasted all the way through ‘Paris’ and ‘Ex Lover’, the band’s last two songs and the ones that received the most applause. But then it was over. Now we wait – rather impatiently I might add – for album #2!

After the jump: set lists and photos.


Continue reading Live Review: Friendly Fires with the xx at Paradise Rock Club, Boston – 04 December 2009


Video of the Moment #188: the xx

By on Wednesday, 9th December 2009 at 6:00 pm

So I confess…yes, I travelled to Boston, Massachusetts (a good 300+ miles northeast of Washington) last week to see the xx and Friendly Fires (gig review coming soon). What made this trip even better: an in-store performance by the xx at Newbury Comics, part of a New England chain of stores that sell yup, you guessed it, comics, but also CDs, DVDs, and other alternative pop culture merchandise.

You don’t understand. D.C. never has in-stores. Unless you count book signings like the time Dan Brown showed up at some chichi bookstore in Georgetown to sign copies of the Da Vinci Code, these things just don’t happen in my neck of the woods. So when one of my good friends forwarded me information for the in-store starring the xx, I knew I had to be there. For one, I was positive it would be an intimate performance. (I just never would have guessed just how ‘intimate’ it would turn out to be.) And two, it was a performance just a couple hours before the band played as the opener at the Paradise Rock Club near Boston University.

Thanks to an equipment arrival delay, we were forced to wait outside for what seemed like forever in the cold Boston night. It took almost an hour after the original starting time for us to be let into the store. (Rather stupidly, I’d dressed in a thin corduroy jacket, thinking fashion over function. Never again!) Rather appropriately, the friends I had made while standing in the queue and I ended up standing right next to the Doctor Who and Harry Potter dolls and we spent the intervening time before the band came out to discuss the relative merits of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. It was somewhat uncomfortable being crammed into this tiny store, but I had a feeling all the discomfort in the world would be all worth it.

Unfortunately, my view for most of the in-store was obstructed for most of the performance because of several tall blokes in front of me, as well as a rather annoying girl who stood up on a staff ladder without any regard for the people behind her. I thought all hope was lost in trying to describe the magic that was created in that store last Friday night until I happened upon this video. Someone in the front managed to film ‘Nighttime’ and most of ‘Infinity’, the last two songs of the set. Humourously, ‘Taylor Lautner’ appears to be part of the band, hanging out behind Romy Madley-Croft. (If you were wondering, ‘Robert Pattinson’ was to the right of Oliver Sim.) Check it out and enjoy.


The xx – Nighttime -and- Infinity (live)

Set list
Basic Space


Live Review: The xx with Jon Hopkins at DC9, Washington DC – 15 November 2009

By on Wednesday, 18th November 2009 at 3:00 pm

On your side of the Atlantic, it was Steve Lamacq I believe who first tipped the xx as one of the bands to make waves in 2009. On this side, Pitchfork sang the praises of the band’s debut album in late summer, practically ensuring that hype would be following the band around wherever they went. So it follows that the news that the xx’s fourth member Baria Qureshi caused the band to cancel some European dates and subsequently decided to leave the band permanently would make headlines. The band decided recently at a London gig to continue as a three-piece and not replace Qureshi. To accommodate the loss of a bandmember, some changes had to be made to the stage show that I’m sure the band did not anticipate just weeks before. Percussion/electronics guru Jamie Smith works double time now, and some of the synth parts are now played by singer/guitarist Romy Madley-Croft. Despite these minor physical changes, I could not find a single fault with the xx’s headlining, sold-out performance at DC9 Sunday night. Well, except maybe for the lighting.

On many an occasion I’ve wondered to myself what kinds of electronic noise must be emanating from producer Paul Epworth‘s West London studio. And indeed, I had it in my mind that if I could choose from anyone on the planet, I’d want Paul to teach me how to play the synth. However, after seeing Londoner Jon Hopkins perform, I may have changed my mind. This was the first time I’ve had the opportunity of seeing an electronica artiste at work. When you listen to electronic music from an album, you, like me, probably envision someone sat in front of a computer console, hooked up to a multitude of electronic gizmos and thingamabobs, clicking a mouse here and pressing a button here. Hopkins’s performance in contrast was mesmerising. Flurries of buttons pushed, fingers sliding, and dials turning gave way to songs feeling as expansive as the night sky (and at one time, ringing out with thunder) to those as happening as the beats at your neighbourhood club down the street. And all under near darkness.

And now, for the main event – the xx. Guitar playing from Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim (bass) is wondrous to behold live. Because of the spareness of the guitars against the rest of the backing instrumentation, it becomes immediately clear that these two know what they are doing with their instruments, and being in their presence while they are playing feels like a gift. With both of their gentle, gorgeous voices, the overall sound is tight and confident, sultry and full of yearning. ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’ and the Womack and Womack cover of ‘Teardrops’ in particular were standouts to me, but really, the whole set was fantastic, and better than when I saw them open for Friendly Fires in New York in August.

Sim prefaced a cover of Filipino soul singer Kyla‘s ‘Do You Mind?’ with the comment, “we’ve only played it a handful of times, so it’s quite possible we’ll fuck it up“, but the caution was unnecessary because the song sounded great; Smith abandoned his desk for the song so he could beat on two drums stage right of Madley-Croft. Black Book Mag describes the xx’s music as “new indie lovemakin’ music“, a sobriquet that sounds laughable but I have to agree with the assessment. This may not be the kind of music to make you get up and dance, but surely the lush melodies will make you tingle and you will ache from inside out from the r&b-tinged loveliness. Catch them on their March 2010 UK tour if you can. I shall be seeing them again (twice on the same day) the first week of December in Boston. Fingers crossed.

After the cut: set list and my attempts at photos. (I told you it was dark!)
Continue reading Live Review: The xx with Jon Hopkins at DC9, Washington DC – 15 November 2009


The xx / March 2010 UK Tour

By on Friday, 23rd October 2009 at 4:30 pm

TGTF favourites The xx have announced some of their biggest headlining dates so far.

They’ll play the below shows in early March next year.

Monday 1st March 2010 – Brighton Komedia
Wednesday 3rd March 2010 – London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Friday 5th March 2010 – Birmingham O2 Academy 2
Saturday 6th March 2010 – Manchester Academy 2
Monday 8th March 2010 – Leeds Cockpit
Tuesday 9th March 2010 – Edinburgh Studio 24
Wednesday 10th March 2010 – Liverpool The Kazimier


Video of the Moment #156: The xx

By on Thursday, 15th October 2009 at 6:00 pm


The xx – Islands [Later Live…]

We’ve slowly become quite big the xx fans here at TGTF of late, with their sublime tunes just crawling into our hearts and staying there for much of the past few months. This video shows you why – gorgeous, slow, lo-fi stuff that sounds as good (if not better) live as on CD. Listen, watch and enjoy.


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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