September 20, 2013
San Francisco, CA USA
Review by Davis Marret
British Indie Mesmerize The Fillmore
Alt-J may be the most talented and best kept secret England has had in years. Their name is strange and their music is unique and celestial, but they are bound for international glory. Since June of this year alone, they have rhythmically infiltrated four continents and twenty one countries. The Cambridge-based band is averaging about 20 shows in a single month. These are not your typical gigs and venues either. They are at the Reading Festival in England on a Friday night, followed by back-to-back gigs in Japan on a Sunday night two days later. Luckily for America, they have been freight training their way down the East Coast, and I caught a rightfully sold out and stellar performance at The Fillmore in Charlotte, N.C.
Los Angeles-based indie folk rockers Lord Huron opened the night with a solid hour of satisfying tunes and uplifting lyrics. Shortly after their departure from the stage, Alt-J appears and triangles of hands begin popping from every angle. The delta triangle (▵) is the symbol produced when typing the code alt + j on an Apple Macbook. It's hard to not compare the band's sound to Radiohead since Joe Numan, lead vocalist, creates a sci-fi type effect with his voice that is similar in style to Thom York. Gus Unger-Hamilton, keyboardist, often chimes in with some heavenly a capella notes during a few tracks to sweeten the sauce even more. Numan really showcases his range and powerful chops on songs like "Matilda" and show opener "Fitzpleasure." Strange and nonsensical lyrics like "In your snatch fits pleasure, broom-shaped pleasure," mixed with exotically bass driven synth beats, gives Alt-J a sound that seems out of this world.
Since the debut of their first and only album, An Awesome Wave in 2012, their notoriety and fame have been spreading quicker than bird flu on a homing pigeon. Radio single "Tessellate" has been on heavy rotation on air waves both sides of the pond for several months. The band's unique sound and obvious musical talent has even garnered the attention of superstars such as Mumford and Sons and the RZA, whom both have renditions of "Tessellate" in their own distinctive fashion. Show set lists are pretty repetitive and predictable, but they delightfully have managed to weave in new songs "Warm Foothills" and "Buffalo," the latter of which was from the original motion picture soundtrack of Silver Linings Playbook.
Watching them perform on stage is almost like gazing at a work of abstract art. Single elements of their sound seem strange and out of place when isolated. But when melded together and combined with each other, they create a truly distinctive ambiance that is pleasurably accessible and seemingly impossible to recreate. They encore the show with the obligatory "Breezeblocks," which has no doubt been their biggest hit, and anyone at the Fillmore that night could see why. Alt-J has proven to themselves and to the world that they are a band that will not soon be forgotten. Numan throws up a triangle to the crowd and without saying a word, dissolves into the backstage just as mysteriously as he appeared.