With equal portions of 20th century rave-nostalgia, haunting vocal samples, and cathartic tribal beats, Jamie xx served up an impeccable performance at the Echoplex in LA on Tuesday night that proved his music as an homage to something greater than just turning up.
The young U.K. producer and DJ moves against the grain of American party culture. We go out, we get fucked up, we crave grimy drops, the right BPM, and head-banging beats that make us go and go and go to until we can't anymore. Yet here is the 26-year-old British babe who has focused his work on a nuanced and timeless sound that explores the emotional potential of dance music.
At the very, very intimate Los Angeles venue, a crucible of LA-people young and old were tightly packed into the very, very sold-out show. Following opening performer Young Marco, Jamie xx's 120 minute set of aural bliss shied away from the all-too-familiar DJ sets filled with drop after drop of popular beats.
Anticipating tracks from the 2-month old In Colour, some people seemed disappointed at the lack of familiar sounds; some yelling, "I WANT SOME GOOD TIMES," alluding to Jamie's most popular U.S. song featuring Yung Thug and Popcaan).
But the artist was unphased, his agenda was not on providing beats for people to lose their shit to, rather composing a palate of rave sounds new and old in artistic impression.
Unfortunately, Jamie was phased when his mesmerizing set was mired by jarring cut-outs of the entire right speaker system. After about three or four times, the Echoplex finally fix it and the frustrated DJ was able to regain his fingering.
Apart from the technical mishap, the audience raved in the hilly soundscape as singles like "Girl" and "All Under One Roof Raving" radiated through their intended habitat. Finding home in that dank darkness, Jamie comfortably exhibited his mastery in dance-music with "Gosh," as he threw the dark-industrial shuffle under a train of shimmers, building up anticipation for nearly 4 minutes before he dropped the dark track so hard it made my heart skip a beat.
Yet, it was the hauntingly desperate and strangely romantic performances of "Loud Places" and "You Got the Love" that showed how Jamie's tracks re-imagine the utility of modern dance music. With beads of sweat forming at every pore, the audience swayed together with eyes closed and lips mouthing lyrics in unison, creating an eerie feeling of dazed connectedness and communion.
In the UK, Jamie xx is often criticized as peddling pastiche as he cherrypicks moments from dance music history and repackages them with an approachable pop sheen and heavy doses of nostalgia. He's held to a different standard there, as is anyone looking to hold the flag for the British dance scene.
In America, though, where The Echoplex rippled with Jamie xx's colorful vocals, mason jar tinks, and iconic steel-drums, brows are less furrowed and toes at the ready to tap. There's no haughty protectionism of the eras from which he wrings his nostalgia because that era never really happened here in the first place. That is, except for the opening bars of "Good Times":
At 12:45 am, Romy's verse "I go to loud places to search for someone / to be quiet with" resonated off the walls and in our hearts as Jamie xx bewitched his LA-audience, taking each person to a higher place that transcended the dancefloor.
In Colour has announced Jamie xx to stateside audiences in a more pronounced manner than his previous works, and here, he's free to be himself without the wary glare of his native Britain.
Ellena Basada is on Twitte