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EMA, Mas Ysa, YUS - Crescent Ballroom - 6/28/14

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I'm not sure what went wrong with this show. All the bands were talented, smart individuals, yet it seemed like no one could be bothered to even pretend to be interested. First, this gig started off with tickets around $7, but Crescent Ballroom made the event free, presumably because they couldn't sell enough tickets. That encouraged a pretty good crowd, but they did not seem focused at all.

This was YUS's first show in two years -- I remember seeing him with oOoOO in 2012. Back then, he was just playing on a laptop with a mixing board. Now he has a guitarist/percussionist and a backup singer. It was their first show, so you can't blame them for being a little rusty.

YUS himself was elegant, however, almost robotic. That might sound stiff, but because he's human, there will always be a slight degree of error in his musicianship. YUS played "Nowadays" and several other tracks off his new album, Talisman, but I mostly heard people talking or on their cell phones. I'm hoping he plays around more now.

Mas Ysa was a different story. Here was a guy in sweatpants and an oversized white shirt jumping up and down barefoot over "Sarah McLaughlin beats" (he described them that way). His setup was a table crammed with DJ gear and a microphone. He said he was going to "cry all over everything" for us and I couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or not, because the way he sang was warble-y and whiny, and he did sound almost ready to cry. I couldn't understand this at all, so in my head I pretended I was not here to see music but instead some bizarre performance art from Paris or Copenhagen, and then it made like a small amount of sense.

EMA was gracious for the amount of folks that showed up. Granted, for a Saturday night it wasn't much, but it was still a healthy draw. Folks seemed blasé and bored and didn't dance -- as usual -- but EMA performed wonderfully.

The stage was set with fake potted plants and LED boards lit by a saturated blue beam. It kind of looked like a newsroom or the set of Between Two Ferns, looking surreal and inviting. Goopy fog pumped from a smoke machine and greens lasers danced in it.

EMA herself wore large, round sunglasses, and her blonde hair covered her face. In fact, she's so good at blending in that my friend nudged me in the ribs and said, "That's the girl I bummed a smoke from outside!" No wonder she laughed at him when she gave him a menthol.

She performed calmly, expertly, opening with "Satellites," from her new album The Future's Void, filling the room with her static tears. She transitioned smoothly from down tempo songs like "The Grey Ship" and "California" to higher energy tunes like "So Blonde."

My favorite thing she said all night? "We used to talk about school shootings before they happened. But that's just some hipster bragging." She was smooth, yet edgy. She pushed for something more, something that might make you uncomfortable while still remaining beautiful. And nobody seemed to give a fuck. More power to Erika for performing her best anyway.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: EMA, Mas Ysa, YUS at Crescent Ballroom

The Crowd: Tedious, dull, monotonous, repetitive, unrelieved, unvaried, unimaginative, uneventful; characterless, featureless, colorless, lifeless, insipid, uninteresting, unexciting, uninspiring, unstimulating, uninvolving; unreadable, unwatchable; jejune, flat, bland, dry, stale, tired, banal, lackluster, stodgy, vapid, monochrome, dreary, humdrum, mundane; mind-numbing, wearisome, tiring, tiresome, ho-hum, dulls-ville, dull as dishwater, plain-vanilla.

Overheard: "I work in social media. It's totally cool." "You update someone else's Twitter for a living? How is that cool?"

Personal Bias: I wish I was blonde. No, I don't.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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