Crystal Castles at First Avenue, 3/11/11

Categories: Last Night
Photos by Ben Clark
Crystal Castles
March 11, 2011
First Avenue, Minneapolis

"Alice Glass has a broken ankle. The doctors told her to cancel the rest of this tour, but Alice said 'Fuck that!'" 

That was announced over the PA system just prior to Crystal Castles set Friday night at First Avenue. Indeed, when Glass -- who has performed with serious injuries, including broken ribs, in the past -- and bandmate Ethan Kath took the stage, Glass was wearing an air cast on her left foot (more on that later).

The stage was dark for the entire set, save for light bars flashing red, green, white and blue that looked stolen from the set of a '70s movie about '90s -- retro-futurism at it's best. There were exactly zero words spoken to the crowd between songs. Five minutes into the set, about halfway through the second song, "Baptism," the floor looked like a rave from hell. Sweaty bodies everywhere, limbs that looked almost disembodied flying in every direction, reminiscent of the Zion dance party scene in The Matrix Reloaded. The bass was pounding so hard bits of the ceiling were raining onto the crowd. That, coupled with the overall feel of the music, much of which sounds like the soundtrack to an 8-bit video game-fueled nightmare, and Glass's blatant disregard for her broken ankle (she crawled out into the crowd on several occasions, which is dicey even when your 100% healthy) made disaster seem inevitable for almost the entire set -- though oddly, the songs themselves never seemed that way at all. 

The sound was sharp, not easy considering their lo-fi, electronic nature. Songs like "Celestica" among others have a ferocious yet brittle sound, something that can easily turn muddy in a live setting, but Kath seemed to have a firm grip on preventing that while Glass flailed and jumped onstage. She wasn't doing her ankle any favors, though the bottle of Jim Beam she was taking hero-sized pulls from between songs must have helped deaden the pain, which had to have been excruciating.

Photos by Ben Clark
​Much of the set was culled from their first record, which is now referred to as Crystal Castles I. Those songs are great in their own way, but the leap they made beween CCI and CCII is obvious, and while CCII isn't exactly easy listening, it's much more accessible. There's melody in the new work, whereas much of the material from their debut sounds like a Nintendo console being smashed to pieces with a sledgehammer.

The 70-minute show wrapped up with a too-long -- though stunning -- five-song encore. Glass didn't fully leave the stage before it's start, electing instead to sit in obvious agony on the steps leading to the backstage area. For the finale, the light bars flashed on and off and rotating through the colors quickly, making it seem as though you were watching a 3-D movie without the glasses. They left the stage to a deafening roar of approval from a crowd that as a whole looked a bit worse for wear but all of whom seemed aware they had just seen something absolutely incredible.

Photos by Ben Clark
Critic's Bias: I get unreasonably excited about glitchy, weirdo electronic music like Crystal Castles. (See also: Boards Of Canada, (ome).)
The Crowd: Skewed very young. I was easily one of the oldest people in attendance.
Overheard In The Crowd: Nothing of note. It was so loud that with earplugs in coupled with the volume of the music you couldn't hear anything being spoken by anyone unless they were screaming in your ear.
Random Notebook Dump: Crawling into the crowd with a broken foot: badass.

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