Django Django and Night Moves at First Avenue, 3/16/13

Categories: Last Night
Django Django Main.jpg

Django Django
With Night Moves
First Avenue, Minneapolis
March 16, 2013

For their debut Minneapolis performance, the U.K. electro-pop sensation Django Django eschewed the more modest local introductions of their fellow Mercury Music Prize nominees (and eventual winner) Alt-J, and brazenly scheduled their initial Twin Cities show at the prodigious First Avenue. That bold move paid off big time, as the young London-based quartet easily sold-out (with the help of local openers Night Moves) and ultimately electrified the Mainroom with a polished, propulsive 70-minute set that got the early St. Patrick's Day revelers who packed the club dancing the night away.

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Night Moves channel the past

While Minneapolis's own Night Moves have made plenty of prominent waves themselves within the music scene as of late, it was interesting (and a bit endearing) that frontman John Pelant still chose to introduce the band to a local crowd that was still familiarizing themselves with the band. But hopefully they made plenty of new fans after their road-tested and soaring 40-minute set, as their relaxed, throwback rock sound washed over the full house. The eight-song set started with a gloriously expansive version of "Country Queen," one of the clear standouts to their breakout debut album, Colored Emotions. The elegant sonic textures of the chorus took flight in the club, and easily won over anyone unfamiliar with the band coming in.

"Family Tongues" (which the band still affectionately calls "Cosmic Titties") was a triumphant early set highlight, and featured some deft guitar work from Pelant. The group also mixed in a couple new songs which fit seamlessly next to their older material. But it was the dynamic closing trio of "Horses," "Headlights," and "Colored Emotions" which really showcased Night Moves' impressive talents, as the songs really took on a confident, self-assured edge, a positive result of all the touring they've done in support of their record. And they don't show any signs of slowing down, as multi-instrumentalist Mark Ritsema proudly announced at the end of their stellar set that they would be back really soon (April 24, in fact) as they hit the road in support of another breakout Minneapolis band, Poliça.

The swelling crowd gradually grew more spirited in the half-hour break between sets, but when Django Django finally bounded on stage, with frontman Vincent Neff exclaiming excitedly, "Hello citizens of Minneapolis," that tension was released immediately. The quartet performed in front of an elaborate backdrop of blinds, light bulbs, and circles that lit up according to the tempo and tone of their sound, a nice visual touch along with the band's matching black button-up shirts. But it was ultimately the Django's stirring songs and not their fancy stage set that sold-out the club in the first place, and we were all anxious to hear if they could successfully pull off their rich, layered music within a live setting. And the hotly-tipped band didn't disappoint, filling the club with the enormous pulsing tones of "Introduction," which gradually gave way to the swinging rhythms of "Hail Bop," just as it does on their self-titled debut.

Django's live sound was far more textured and massive than it is on record, which gives the numbers an added dynamic essence which proved to be rather intoxicating and irresistible. "Storm" took on a hypnotic, towering beat led by drummer David Maclean, clearly echoing elements of the Beta Band, which featured David's older brother John. Indeed, the brothers must have dabbled in the same intoxicants during their musical upbringing, as their respective bands certainly contain plenty of experimental sonic similarities, with Django's music coming across as far more fun and funky in comparison.

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