Wall-to-wall skinny jeans, dark rimmed glasses and crazy haircuts were out in full form to see the indie British quartet Alt-J at the commodore ballroom on Sunday night. Essentially, I arrived at what felt like hipster central, at one of the most sought after concerts of the year. In fact, I have never actually seen such a long line outside the Commodore of people hoping to acquire last-minute ticket releases. Upon arrival I took a quick scan of the merch table before making my way into the throngs of people amassing on the ballroom floor. The anticipation in the crowd was palpable- this show marked Alt-J’s first performance in Vancouver following the release of their first full length album in September 2012. I definitely felt as though I was one of the lucky few able to be in attendance that night.
Before Alt-J took to the stage, there was little doubt in my mind as to what their set would contain, what I could expect to hear. While there is a certain level of predictability that comes with a band that has a more limited repertoire, there is a certain level of joy I take out of the guarantee that I will hear everything I want to hear. Another advantage to having a more limited number of original tracks is that the set remains slightly shorter but in many ways punchier and tighter as a result. There are no dips in energy or tempo that sometimes come when a band tries to integrate newer and less-well known material to a mixed crowd/fan-base. I also often find myself in a state of awe at shows like these because the majority of fans in attendance know all the words to every single song. One cannot help but be lifted up by the incredible feeling of band and audience singing along in unison, anticipating together every twist and turn that each and every track takes. Usually, this only happens for a few precious moments during a show, while the one hit single plays or, for more seasoned bands, for a few of their bigger hits. At Alt-J on Sunday night, this feeling carried through each and every song- as if every song was their greatest hit and that sort of energy is intoxicating.
In true hipster fashion, countless faces in the crowd were aglow with the blue light of their smart phones, either snapping photos or recording video clips. With so many high quality live recordings or artists on youtube these days, I sometimes wonder if those recordings taken at the back or middle of the crowd while also dancing and singing along to the song are ever looked at again. No one band member in Alt-J was overly talkative or engaging with the crowd but I think they read their audience well- any downtime between songs and the conversation level at the show was incredibly loud. I think they wisely rolled from track to track and kept a good momentum to their set. In fact, the few times they did speak to the crowd their quick speak doubled with British accents made it difficult to decipher exactly what they said- and I am someone who lives with a Brit! So, Alt-J, if you guys are reading this, please slow it down a little bit for us North Americans, it takes us a little longer to make sense of brit-speak.
All in all, a great night of live music, Vancouverites clearly love and adore you & cannot wait until your return in September.
Photos of Alt-J © Jamie Taylor