Show Review + Photos: MSTRKRFT, Santigold, Trouble Andrew and Amanda Blank at the Pageant, Saturday, June 13

Jun 14, 2009 at 1:26 pm
Around 1:10 a.m. or so, MSTRKRFT dropped bits of Daft Punk's "Da Funk" into its DJ set. The crowd - or what was left of it - at the Pageant naturally went apeshit, fueled as much by free Bacardi drinks as it was by the French techno-funk. And sure, at that hour, nothing is better than hearing an awesome dance jam.

(View a slideshow of the concert.)

MSTRKRFT. More photos here. - Photo: Egan O'Keefe
Photo: Egan O'Keefe
MSTRKRFT. More photos here.
But aesthetically, it highlighted the shortcomings of the Canadian duo's 90-minute DJ set. Dropping Daft Punk in a room full of techno-heads and hipsters is the equivalent of throwing Madonna on at a gay club - it's an easy, lowest-common-denominator move. (Just ask the between-artist DJs, who dropped Daft Punk at least twice a set to keep the crowd happy.) And MSTRKRFT is better than that - especially because the pair has dozens of fine remixes under its belt, like the version of Justice's "D.A.N.C.E.," which it did play.

More important, MSTRKRFT also has two solid artist albums - this year's Fist of God and 2006's The Looks. But the album songs that made the set -- the hard hip-hop bangers "It Ain't Love," "Word Up" and highlight "Bounce," and classy electro-funk "Easy Love -- didn't keep the momentum going for long. Perhaps it was because these tunes were coming from a Mac laptop and some gigantic stage speakers (and not a full-band), or because the volume was set at eardrum-bursting, but the experience was inexplicably boring and disappointing.

Judging from the amount of people who left after her set, Santigold was the night's main attraction. And out of all of last night's performers, she was by far the most professional and entertaining. She bounced onstage in a silvery jeans-and-jacket ensemble and tore through most of her self-titled debut, jumping from reggae ("Creator," "Shove It"), to new-wave pop ("Lights Out," "I'm a Lady") and hip-hop with ease.

Santigold. More photos. - Photo: Egan O'Keefe
Photo: Egan O'Keefe
Santigold. More photos.

Santigold's three-piece backing band and two gold-jacket-wearing dancers - which danced in stoic unison - brought life to these tunes. Santi's charisma also helped: She thanked the crowd for being so enthusiastic and into her music - and judging by hipster reaction at many shows, I'm pretty sure she was being serious. Other highlights included a cover of the Cure's "Killing an Arab" (which came complete with a shout-out to Albert Camus after) and a set-ending version of Spank Rock's "B.O.O.T.A.Y.," one of the better modern approximations of mid-'90s hip-hop.

Openers Amanda Blank and Trouble Andrew weren't quite as successful. The former resembled a member of SNL fake-girl rap trio Gemini's Twin or a castoff from the raunch-rap group Fannypack, with her nasally delivery and sassy rhymes. Mostly, the set came off like a Peaches tribute act. The most memorable tune was "Might Like You Better" - a song whose chorus, "I might like you better if we slept together," rips off Romeo Void's "Never Say Never" -- and the sample of the synth line of Berlin's "The Metro" under another tune that morphed into a reggae tune.

Trouble Andrew's live set also felt somewhat off. Although in the studio his electro is fantastically melancholic and minimalist, the rock- and hip-hop-oriented, tarted-up version on display last night didn't connect with the audience. Sadly, it came off as somewhat like he was trying too hard. (Perhaps it was the person on stage wearing a football helmet throwing money the entire time -- an ironic hip-hop statement, or serious gesture?) And by the time things picked up at the end of the set - with a song that sounded like a John Hughes soundtrack cut -- the brief, half-hour set was over.