By Darren Hicks
I guess I don’t go to the Crystal Ballroom that often in the summer. I’d forgotten how hot it gets up there. As soon as Sylvan Esso started playing though, I didn’t care. And I’d been waiting for a long time.
For clarification, I bought my ticket to the August 17th show at the end of March, so you can imagine my bated breath getting heavier as I was heading upstairs, the temperature climbing ever higher with each step. We’ve all been there, I don’t have to explain any further. Plus having to think of all this flowery language is exhausting. Let’s get to the meat of this thing.
I got my 2 beers and promptly ran into an old friend with whom I chatted until the opener, Flock of Dimes, came on stage. Jenn Wasner (of Wye Oak) was a sole beacon of light on the Crystal Ballroom stage, playing mostly songs from her record released this year, If You See Me, Say Yes, and the sound was as big as a full band. I told a friend during her set that she reminded me of “how Neko Case would sound if shere were in [Portland artist] Pure Bathing Culture”. She closed with an outstandingly beautiful cover of “No More I Love Yous” from Annie Lennox and the room went nuts. She was extremely gracious and thanked Portland and its crowd throughout the evening, even going as far as to call out a different city for the “feral animals” that populated theirs (I won’t say who).
Sylvan Esso walked on to “Sound”, the de facto intro to this years What Now, then went right into “Dreamy Bruises”, a standout banger from their debut, then followed that with another synth sucker punch – and my early favorite for 2017 Track of the Year – “Kick Jump Twist”. The night was a sweaty, dance-filled grab bag of tracks from their two albums, and it was a blast. For just a two-piece, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn are fun to watch, but I will be honest and say the times I did watch were few, for I quickly got sucked into the crowd’s own kicking, jumping and twisting. I’m sure I screamed wrong lyrics in somebody’s ear. I gave people my number who I’m certain will never text me and then find it in their phone years from now and have no idea who’s it is. Those are the crazy things you do when shows are this fun. Maybe just me. I will say though that “Radio”, “Hey Mami”, “H.S.K.T.”, fan favorite (and feature of a very cool Song Exploder episode) “Coffee” and closer “Play it Right” were also definite highlights.
I left the Crystal Ballroom a sloppy, sweaty, tired, beer-y mess that night. I also left with a new found appreciation for people. We all just wanted to go out and dance like maniacs and forget about things for a little bit, and we did that.