Everybody loves Fridays, but what truly makes a Friday the best day of the week? When you can head out to UBC to catch the incredibly talented alt-J. Many people had told me that if you’re going to see a band live, it should be alt-J. After Friday night, I couldn’t agree more.
But, before I go into how I fell in love with alt-J, I need to talk about the opener: Bishop Briggs (aka Sarah Grace McLaughlin). Similar to alt-J, someone also told me Bishop Briggs is awesome live. OHMYGOD – “awesome” is definitely an understatement.
McLaughlin has absolutely amazing vocals: her sound ranges from ethereal and soft to strong and powerful. Even better, regardless of her sound, McLaughlin’s vocals were always prominent, the band never drowning her out. Bishop Briggs’s music is a grungy, gritty pop, so there’s often a great juxtaposition between McLaughlin’s voice and the instrumentals.
Bishop Briggs started strong with “Dark Side,” from her newly released EP. As McLaughlin moved through the EP, I started to notice how much she loves performing: she seems to get lost in her sound and has an unlimited amount of energy. At times, she was bouncing so much from one side of the stage to the other, I thought she might pull out a backflip or two. And although she was breathless by the end of each song, her vocals never faltered.
McLaughlin zipped through nine tracks, stopping once halfway through, to thank the audience and to say how honoured she was to be opening for alt-J.
Bishop Briggs finished her set with “River.” The performance was phenomenal. The bass shook the arena, while McLaughlin’s voice rang through with a climactic fierceness. It sent shivers up and down my spine.
Bishop Briggs is a force to be reckoned with. Keep your eyes out for her, she is going places.
To be honest, I didn’t get into alt-J when I first heard their singles on the radio. Seeing them in concert though…let’s just say that radio does them zero justice (for me, anyway). I am now totally in love with them and will be Spotifying them ASAP.
Loving Them Live
This group is so AMAZING live. Listening to them perform (both new and old songs), you get a chance to see how varied their music is. They have a wide range of sounds, rhythms, and melodies. Each song is different enough to keep you on your toes, but similar enough to know it’s still them. They have a very unique sound; some of their tracks reminded me of the Beatles, whereas others reminded me of Pink Floyd, and still others, of Radiohead.
The group started with “3WW,” the first single off their newest album, Relaxer. The stage had been arranged so that each member of the band was in a “cage.” Each of these cages had lights that moved up, down, and around with each beat of the song. It added an interesting layer to an already distinct tune.
Relaxer is a short album, with only eight tracks. Alt-J decided to perform only five tracks off the album, with the rest of the concert devoted to several tracks from An Awesome Wave (2012) and a few from This Is All Yours (2014).
Diggin’ the Older Stuff
The songs from An Awesome Wave received a lot of love from the crowd. “Something Good,” brought the audience to their feet, dancing and singing along. There were cheers as alt-J’s wonderful harmonies in the a cappella tune, “❦ (The Ripe & Ruin),” filled the arena. “Matilda,” though, was definitely a crowd favourite. They roared with delight as soon as they recognized the beat.
The only small, tiny gripe that I have about alt-J is that I often had a difficult time hearing their voices. And especially after Bishop Briggs being so clear, it was a bit of a disappointment for me. But, perhaps this was their intention.
Otherwise, it was a spectacular performance. I discovered two, new favourite songs: “The Gospel of John Hurt,” which was apparently inspired by the sci-fi flick, Alien and “Pleader,” which has a beautiful introduction.
Alt-J rounded out their concert with “Fitzpleasure,” before heading off stage, leaving the audience screaming for their return.
Alt-J returned to play three last songs. A slightly slower-paced, “Intro (An Awesome Wave)” was the first song. But then the group ended with a bang, playing “Left Free Hand” and “Breezeblocks.”
“Breezeblocks” blew my mind! It was an incredible ending to such a great night. So, to those of you who were undecided about seeing them live, do it. They really are something else.