We had the grand opportunity to attend and review Xiu Xiu’s recent Chicago show. This show was a part of their fall U.S. tour. You can check out our review and recap of the night’s festivities after the break.
I wasn’t sure what type of act would open for Xiu Xiu as they are a very unique group and no one really fits with them. I was pleasantly surprised by Mister Lies, a 19 year old electronic artist from Chicago. His set started off with atmospheric tones leading me to believe that he was about to do a boring ambient set. After about a 30 second intro he started fading in a repeated electronic drum beat which escalated into some banging house tracks. He segued into a variety of different songs which ranged from drum and bass to footwork. Each track was produced very well and, while I was able to hear his musical influences in the songs, he put a new spin on each track that made it his own.
With most live electronic music it is difficult for me to tell if the artist is actually doing something complicated or if he is just pressing play on a laptop and slightly manipulating their tracks. Mister Lies seemed so busy on his setup that I would imagine that he falls into the former category. In between twisting knobs and dancing he took a few seconds to glance at the audience just to make sure he had their attention.
I was pretty impressed by his set and was even more impressed when I found out that this was only his third live show. It’s great to see an electronic artist that isn’t just following the trend of mediocre Dubstep that is so popular right now. I can see a bright future for Mister Lies and hope to see him play more shows in Chicago.
The music that played over the PA in between Mister Lies and Xiu Xiu was some very eerie, dark experimental soundscapes. This set a tone of negative emotions which prepared the audience for Xiu Xiu’s set. While the sounds played, Jamie Stewart, the only member in this night’s incarnation of the group, set up his equipment. Emotionless, he made sure his Microkorg synthesizer, guitar, autoharp, and oscillator were setup correctly. He also had a flurry of pedals that he adjusted as well as a few strange items such as keyboard duster and a mini-gong.
After doing a short sound check he left the stage for a few minutes, came back with two drinks, picked up his synth, and launched into his first song. He bellowed over a creepy melody which reeked of despair. I could tell this set was going to be an emotionally sad one and that any happy or positive parts would be short lived. His next song was a cover of The Smiths’ “I Won’t Share You” on autoharp. Towards the end he would purposely make the chords sound warped and augmented which gave the song a tortured feel. He continued to make things interesting by switching off between guitar and synthesizer and even incorporating a theremin on a few songs.
During one song he played an oscillator and made use of the strange items I mentioned before. He laid the oscillator on his lap, set it to loop some ominous tones, and then took a slingshot and shot what looked like chalk at a mini gong across the stage. He then took the keyboard duster and sprayed it into the microphone. While this all sounds pretty silly it was a very unique experience.
The only time Jamie Stewart spoke outside of his songs was right before the last song when he thanked Mister Lies for his set and informed the audience that merchandise could be purchased in the back of the room. After his last song he put down his guitar, put on his backpack, and darted off the stage and out of the room. He gave off a very “tortured artist” vibe and I wonder how much of that is real and how much is a result of the Xiu Xiu persona. Regardless he put on an interesting performance and I’m interested in seeing Xiu Xiu again perhaps with other musicians accompanying Jamie Stewart.
Information about the tour…
Tour: Xiu Xiu Fall U.S. Tour
Artists: Xiu Xiu and Mister Lies
Reviewer: Jimmy Farabi
Date: September 3, 2012
Venue: Schubas Tavern in Chicago, IL