If there is one take away point from The XX’s show last Wednesday at The Boulder Theater, it’s that lo-fi is back, and better than ever in that deliciously dark and angsty way we all secretly love. Now, when I say lo-fi I don’t mean your grungy older brother’s high school version of it. Instead, the genre that started in the 1980′s as an underground moment and rapidly gained popularity through the 90′s with bands like Pavement, Liz Phair and Elliot Smith has been enjoying a quite a nice renaissance lately.
To describe the aesthetic in a bit more detail, low fidelity music is generally categorized as recorded music that is of lower quality than most studio recorded songs, leading to a grainy, distorted, and overall haunting end-product. Rough around the edges is not only encouraged but strived for here. Add in low-lights and skinny waifs dressed in black singing about heartache and the hopelessness of our modern age, and you’ve got a recipe for success! It’s dark, rebellious, raw, edgy, and somehow refreshing in the sense that the musicality and lyrical depth will resonate and stick with you long after the artists leave the stage.
There are definitely no sugar coated lyrics and you have to at the very least admire the authenticity and genuine emotion that is poured into the genre. When I think of lo-fi as a musical category, it’s sort of like punk rock broke up with their girlfriend, moved to an endlessly rainy place like Seattle, ate a bunch of Xanax and started writing poetry, which is cool, in a totally depressing kind of way, you know?
The UK must be putting something in the water across the pond because not only were the good citizens of Boulder treated to a performance of epic albeit brooding proportions from the London-based headliner The XX, they also got a nice unexpected treat in the form of the opener, 2:54. 2:54 was until last week, completely unknown to me and judging from the scene in the theater, just about everyone else in Colorado. But I predict that after their run with The XX, they will be blowing up here pretty quickly. 2:54 is made up of the British sisterly duo otherwise known as Colette and Hannah Thurlow and is an entity that seems to thrive in a poorly lit, smoky, bottom of the bottle type of environment…aka a perfect embodiment of lo-fi.
If you like The XX but are looking for a less stripped down alternative, look no further than these two newcomers. They bring all the moodiness that The XX is famous for but add a bit more excitement with wailing guitar riffs and a vocal tension that makes their dark sound irresistible and addicting.
The XX totally sucked you guys. Haha just kidding…I hate to be brutally honest for all those who didn’t get to go, but they were probably even more awesome than your friends who somehow got tickets months in advance let on because they didn’t want to hurt your feelings about missing out. With a heavy hitting 19 song set list, the trio brought some serious down tempo heat to Boulder for a Wednesday night show that ended well before last call on Pearl St. They played a nice mix of tracks from their debut album XX and their most recent labor of love (or heartbreak, more appropriately), Coexist including Stars, VCR, Chained, and Angels.
Since Coexist is a more minimal undertaking compared to their first studio album, the whole set took on this slower, deep pace, to the point that even their most upbeat song Crystallized was adjusted to a speed that captivated the audience to a point where dancing was not even as much of a priority at the show as much as simply staring in awe at the spectacle unfolding on stage. Even after playing almost 20 songs, It felt like the act was just getting started when they announced that they would be departing for the night. For a first time performance in Boulder, The XX did anything but disappoint, so if you missed it you better hope it doesn’t take them three more years to make it back here.
Guys, the ladies LOVE The XX, so if your’e looking to show a certain someone that your’e cool, and sensitive, and hip, you might want to casually bring up in conversation how super into them you’ve been getting lately. Who knows, it just might lead to something great!