Friday night was cold, rainy, and built for staying at home. But with a huge line outside of The Observatory in Santa Ana, those ticketholders dying to see Matt & Kim took on the work ethic of a postal worker in order to have some fun. That lengthy wait time is par for the course when you run two separate concerts in one night, as rapper Chris Webby had a performance in the smaller Constellation Room within the Observatory's walls. Luckily, sound doesn't bleed over into the main room and neither did the crowd, as those looking for DIY Brooklynite indie don't always mix well with Caucasian teenage rappers. Instead, the bearded goodness of Papa was on stage to warm up the crowd before Matt & Kim.
This Los Angeles band is no stranger to The Observatory and their reception gets louder each time they play. With the drum kit centered much closer to the audience than their prior shows, the intimate nature of Papa’s catalogue is given strength. Singer/drummer Darren Weiss has a zen control over the crowd, not abusing it to his advantage, instead letting the wondering minds peer upon his craft while he effortlessly belts out his honest artwork. Their suave approach to song writing, with not-quite-smug appearances on their faces, makes for an entertaining show while they firing off some fun tracks. Weiss' eerie voice fit their cover of “Friday I'm In Love” by The Cure almost too well.
Their EP is almost finished and with a handful of residencies, half a dozen Observatory shows, and a trek out to SXSW, Papa is going in the right direction. Right before they played “Put Me to Work,” their newest single and potentially strongest tune, Weiss exclaimed about the variety of fans at the sold out show.
“I'm not sure if I'm high, but I just saw two f**king bananas walk through this place.”
Matt & Kim are currently on tour as a supporting act for Passion Pit, a role that gives them broader audiences but condenses their set to just under 45 minutes. With this one-off show in Santa Ana, they nearly doubled that run time and played two dozen tracks with a few hip-hop interludes thrown in for fun. These breaks in the action give drummer Kim Schifino the opportunity to dance on the crowd and synth-master Matt Johnson time to crack jokes and get the audience pumped. Their set-up is simple, yet effective. Two big screens sit behind a synth and a drum kit, plastering their faces during the song or playing a video suited to the music. They take the time to tell a story to introduce the song. The tempo never drops, the fun never stops, and drummer Kim often makes time to shake her butt. They even asked those aforementioned bananas to crowd surf during a track off of their new album Lightning.
Their hip hop influence is one of their best modifiers, as that attention to hooks and beat synchronization is an important facet of music that a lot of straight-up rock bands don't craft very well. With only two instruments, each member has a precise role that is audibly absent if something isn't timed just right. These two never fall out of sync, never run out of energy, and never stop entertaining. It is just as rock and roll as Kiss or Green Day, with balls-out energy and ovaries-out drumming. Keys and drums is really all you need when you write short and to-the-point songs. Besides, only Dimebag Darrell or Yngwie Malmsteen would be able to keep up with them anyway.
They are the Cracker Jacks of music: they stick to two basic ingredients and add a special prize inside, in this case unrelenting organic energy. It’s a recipe for pure fun that may require some dentist visits. Their neo-nerd quality only makes them more appealing, as their lack of shame and give-a-sh*t-ness empowers those in the crowd that look and feel the same way. The duo unleashed a host of balloons to the crowd and instructed to throw them right back, all within the first 20 minutes of their set. It’s this dedication to a good time that makes Matt & Kim shows some of the very best live music has to offer. Whether it’s a festival or a club, make time to go see Matt & Kim, regardless of bad weather or sold-out sadness.