POP ETC, wearing all white except for the drummer’s fluorescent orange jacket, stepped over the clutter of instruments sprawled across The Beacham’s stage a few minutes before 9 p.m. last Monday night in Orlando, Fla. Contrasting the audacious anthems on their newest self-titled LP, their set was marked by a rather contented nonchalance.
Singer Chris Chu repeatedly encouraged the crowd to let loose and dance, yet failed himself to carry the energy he expected. In retrospect, considering both their demeanor that night and the quality of their new album, this disconnect between band expectation and audience reception seems to be a defining facet of POP ETC.
Being formerly the critically lauded group The Morning Benders, the group’s realignment as an homage to Chu’s childhood love for Boyz II Men and Madonna was a seemingly kitschy decision that left fans disappointed. All squabbling aside, their performance was a simple, yet appetizing foreword to the first Dirty Projectors’ first performance in Florida in five years.
Mirroring the quaint veneer of their latest album Swing Lo Magellan, four members of the Dirty Projectors strode onstage to play the album’s humble title track. Even on singer, songwriter and frontman Dave Longstreth’s most honest track to date, it’s difficult to eke out a meaning from his evocative vignettes. “All drowned in doubt and shame/ I knew that I had lost my sight,” declares Longstreth into the microphone without a trace of resignation. Confident in both his message and its presentation, Longstreth doesn’t let his occasionally starker lines get in the way of having fun playing his music.
The rest of the band soon joined the four present for a blood-red performance of the album’s leader “Offspring Are Blank.” In only the juxtaposition of their first two tracks, Dirty Projectors proves its members can play the roles of barstool troubadours and theatric juggernauts with equally captivating power. Following thereafter, the band’s set consisted almost entirely of songs from Swing Lo Magellan and 2009’s breakthrough opus Bitte Orca.
Dirty Projectors newer, catchier songs signify a departure from its older material (not unlike POP ETC), which was almost entirely written with the compositional finesse of a classically-trained musician, paying little mind to pop viability. The Dirty Projectors of today is certainly a very different creature than the one five years ago, the last time they performed in Florida. They seem comfortable behind these intricately catchy songs.
For a group that spent its budding years crafting vast conceptual art pieces with each record, it’s refreshing to see them loosen up.
Dirty Projectors setlist:
Swing Lo Magellan
Offspring Are Blank
About to Die
See What She Seeing
Gun Has No Trigger
Just From Chevron
Dance For You (encore)
Stillness is The Move (encore)
Impregnable Question (encore)