Purity Ring, Crescent Ballroom, 8/31/12
Purity Ring @ Crescent Ballroom|8/31/12
Lesson of the day: don't overestimate the obscurity of a band. Or, at least check ticket sales. I went to Purity Ring confident that standing room would be still available for me and my girlfriend, but I was the only one able to get in. I needed to cover this show for the blog you are now reading (So meta, I know. Chuck Klosterman and I should be pals.) But I couldn't just leave my girlfriend in the parking lot, right? I may be inconsiderate enough to meld work and a relationship, but I didn't expect her to play "Cut The Rope" on her phone for an hour.
So we went down the street to see Lightning Bolt at the Trunk Space but that show was sold out too! Fuck. We ended up sitting in the Bikini Lounge, sipping Coke and zoning out, until I went back to the Crescent Ballroom for the show with Canadian synth pop duo, Purity Ring.
Of course, being late means I got nowhere near the front, so my pictures turned out like crap. But that was about the worst of it -- the show itself blew my troubled little mind away.
First, I couldn't help but notice the strong similarity to oOoOO. Whatever this witch house thing is, maybe a joke or maybe not, Purity Ring have mastered it. Corin Roddick, the production end of things, still stands there in shorts with a laptop, but he actually plays an instrument, a MIDI kit decorated with flashing polygons. Instead of a projector, the stage was decked out in alien-egg looking Japanese lanterns that synchronized with the distorted, chopped up beats and samples. The "drops" grew wild cheers from the packed crowd, most of which were bobbing their heads or swaying with the band.
This is what oOoOO probably wants, sold-out crowds, people singing along to your every lyrics, the girly voices manifested in an actual female instead of diced up on your Macbook Pro. I'm not a musician, so I can't say what Roddick does was much easier than DJing, but it didn't look difficult. Yet, what separates him from a knob fiddling "just press play" type is all about the performance. And this show would have been nothing without Megan James.
As the other half of Purity Ring, James swooned around the stage, her hair tangled and sticking up like a cave woman, her dress somewhat Amish and when she sang, Roddick mixed her vocals live for a dazzling, disorientating effect.
James' voice is the epitome of shrill. You can't go any higher before you start to sound like a squirrel, but that short range where James hides herself is an ideal sweet spot, melded with the childishness of Björk and the innocence of Beach House. When she danced around to "Crawlersout," it felt like an exorcism, the girl actually yelling at the shadows to leave her alone. Even as she murmured, "There's a cult inside of me," on "Saltkin," it gave both the feeling of overwhelming darkness and beauty. And the light show brought it all together.
Unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties, James couldn't play her giant bass drum. All the more reason for Purity Ring to return and charm us once more.
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Purity Ring with Cousins at Crescent Ballroom The Crowd: I've noticed a lot of kids into the electronic scene at Crescent like dreads. Can someone explain this to me? Overheard: "C'mon, Carla, gimme some!" (Give me some what?) Best Shirt: Andrew Jackson Jihad! Interesting, because I ran into AJJ songwriter Sean Bonnette at the bar later and we had yet another awkward conversation. Random Notebook Dump: James knocked one of her hanging lanterns off the hook in the middle of a song, but she deftly grabbed it and hung it back up without missing a beat.
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.