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The guy directly in front of me at the concert was wearing a baseball cap from an area gun store that had been embellished in Sharpie marker with the cheery battle cry, “Let’s Go Shoot Some Diner [sic]!!!” I’m not sure if there was any irony lurking in that choice of headgear (since moving to the South, I’ve developed a strict personal policy against asking strangers about the verisimilitude of their firearm-related slogans) but the rest of his ensemble seemed to back up the sincerity of his convictions that diner [sic] was always tastiest with a bit of your own buckshot crossing the palate. So, yeah, in a town more at ease hosting a Grateful Dead tribute band than the latest indie-pop darlings, the sprawling electronica showcase Moogfest notwithstanding, this was going to be a little different audience for the of-the-moment blipping and bleeping budding superstars.

Midnight Magic opened the night to a crowd still filtering in. The Brooklyn-based band has only a couple of 12-inches to their credit thus far and the distance they still need to travel in their development showed. Trying to pull together a hybrid of old soul and funk with very current dance music and the occasional edge of traditional rock underpinnings, the band came across as game but still a little out of their depth, especially in a fairly big room. The mounting neediness in the stage banter of lead singer Tiffany Roth, who admittedly can belt out some big notes, didn’t help matters. When someone onstage is pleading, “Maybe you’re starting to like us? A little bit?” deep into the set, it’s about as appealing as having a sobbing ex on the phone, trying to parse where it all went wrong.

Following a break that was at least 15 minutes longer than it needed to be, buzz band of the moment Washed Out took the stage. The front for multi-instrumentalist Ernest Greene on record, Washed Out was filled out to a full ensemble for the tour, including a keyboardist with a heavy curtain of dark hair falling in front of her face, as if Violent Parr from The Incredibles grew up, shed the computer animated baggage of her family and joined a band. Opening with “Hold Out,” Greene and company quickly established that the live set was going to adhere to the basic characteristics of this year’s full-length debut Within and Without: evocative, accomplished and just a touch dull.

“You and I” was played with a resounding conviction that made it seem as if they were trying to drench the crowd with the very sound of the song. If they could used some computerized alchemy to turn music into molasses and set the swaying, bobbing mass of people to their gurgling end. They do an admirable job of creating something enveloping, but the pristine, languid drone gets redundant after a while. The few occasions when the music got a little more upbeat wound up coming across as an argument for the stylistic approach that should be the rule for Washed Out rather than the exception.

Headliners Cut Copy took the stage to finish off the night, starting with “Take Me Over” off of the excellent Zonoscope from earlier this year. With its odd little rhythms, the song already has a bit of a Talking Heads vibe, which lead singer Dan Whitford only reinforced with his jittery, jagged stage presence. The band was clearly looking to stir up a dance party and the crowd happily obliged, bounding around joyously to every song. During “Lights & Music,” the light show undulating behind the band became so vivid and pronounced it seemed like a disco floor was coming to attack the crowd, perhaps exacting revenge for the pounding they were giving his cousin below their feet.

As opposed to the two bands that preceded them, Cut Copy seemed aware that pacing a show with some contrasts from song-to-song was useful. So the sunny gentle ’80s lope of “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat” led into a nicely muddy guitar solo opening “So Haunted.” And “Sun God” built into a cascade of angularly melodic electronic distortion that suggested an angry hybrid of Depeche Mode and Sonic Youth shambling forward out of some grim club haze.

The groove was practically non-stop through the show with a few songs slinking into one another and a general preference for jumping right into the next tune after a little tinkering with the electronic support rather than addressing the crowd. One of the comments Whitford offered was to note the big ass fan (manufactured by the company Big Ass Fans) turning above the crowd and the corresponding lack of an equivalent device above the performers. “Where’s our fan?” he asked, gesturing to the ceiling. Someone in the audience yelled the response, “We’re your fans!” Maybe this wasn’t all that different of a crowd, after all. Whitford smiled, acknowledged the truth of the comment and just got back down to expertly playing the songs that inspired that fandom in the first place.

(Photos: Nickolay Pirogov)

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