Xiu Xiu played The Haunt with Hedgehog and Kindest Lines, September 15, 2011. A delight to the senses and the crouch, this musical line-up made for an orgasm of the senses.
Opener Hedgehog, from China, smashed their way onstage with simplistic drums and crunchy guitar noise. Member Fun rocked a summer time bass line with a punk attitude. The experimental grungy guitarist and vocalist ZO hid behind his urban bangs but delivered a unique guitar sound and noise exploration. Cutting in between ear splitting solo expressions and poppy guitar riffs, ZO kept the audience tuned. Drummer Atom had a simplistic drum set up featuring emotional solo outbursts. She complimented the “beachy” sound of the bass and the teenage angst of the guitar.
Together, Hedgehog forms a very unique garage band feel with modern influences and clean beats. Check them out at their website.
Next to storm the stage were New Orleans natives Kindest Lines, led by Brittany Terry, Jack Champagne, and Justin Blaire Vial. A depressive, melodic medley of young confusion, keyboards, and hopes and dreams. Guitarist Champagne dove straight into a loud punch in the face with his guitar, juxtaposed with thick bass and electronic 80s drum machine mix-ups by Blaire Vial. Champagne cools down, playing single notes, highlighting the ups and downs of the emotional roller coaster that is Kindest Lines. This all comes together to form a very dark 80s styled, disco infiltrated, and Cyndi Lauperesqu vocalized production. Check their music out on MySpace.
Anticipation boils over and you just want to scream, waiting for the Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart to come on stage. The two new Xiu Xiu appendages for 2011 are Zac Pennington of Parenthetical Girls and Sam Mickens of The Dead Science, who awkwardly set the stage, slowly and meticulously straightened poles and wires. Finally, at the cusp of insanity, Jamie Stewart approached, with a cup of what can be inferred as water, the other a punchy alcoholic drink that he sipped after every song.
Rummaging through plastic bins and tampering with the drum machine, the trio finally began their onslaught. The drum machine sets the tone for each song and Stewart journeyed through the notes on his guitar, producing very unique and modern riffs. Pennington played various instruments including keyboards, snare drum, gongs, gourds, and various noise making toys. Pennington alternated with Mickens on playing the “elementary school” instruments, but mainly remained as guitarist alongside Stewart.
Xiu Xiu made for a very unique concert. The sound is unlike most. There are waves of emotion present in each stanza and the technology used almost feels as though it is punishing Stewart, as it heightens and goes into a frenzy against Stewarts vocals. This is an experimental band that not only pushes the boundaries of musical rules, but pushes the boundaries of what audiences are subjected to. Xiu Xiu is reminiscent of the No Wave movement in New York City in the 1970s. Very unorganized, yet structured based on movement and emotion. Sometimes songs completely lose their structure at the end, some remain fluent throughout, but all songs molest your senses into experiencing something new.
Stewart sounds like Morrissey with a bit more pain. The lyrics are a homosexual and political orgasm of pain and youthful innocence: “A cord my leather daddy dancing very near like a sweat heart would, hurting my butt hole like a sweat heart would,” from Walnut House on the record A Promise. These lyrics are often hidden underneath layers of technological mayhem, perhaps in a way to shield from the painful stings of words, or a hard reflection of Stewart on his own life, and perhaps a hesitation to fully reveal himself.
Xiu Xiu is a native of San Jose, California and have been together since 2002, with their first LP Knife Play. They have shuffled through various members, originally a collaboration with Cory McCulloch, aided by friends Lauren Andrews and Yvonne Chen. Their latest album entitled Dear God, I Hate Myself is available on iTunes, along with most of their other works. Visit their website and check out what socks Stewart was wearing in Ithaca.