7th November | SWX
There’s just something indescribably compelling about Sylvan Esso and what they do; sometimes sounding as old as the Appalachians, whilst simultaneously sounding like an illegal rave taking place inside a Gameboy.
Support act, Bayonne was a 21st-Century one-man band. When I was a lad, one-man bands used to have a bass drum strapped to their back and cymbals on their knees. They sounded like a cheery odd-job man demolishing a shed. Bayonne was a sonic draughtsman, his designs turning into stylish modern constructions that we were more than happy to inhabit.
Starting by promising “such decibels” that “All you’ll hear is sound/All you’ll feel is sound/All you’ll be is sound” was a Sylvan Esso mission statement and a half. Not only could you feel the music through your ribcage, but what also became swiftly and abundantly clear was that Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn would also be consumed by the rhythms, possessed by their own enchantments.
They move in mysterious ways. Sanborn is a veritable wizard of twiddle. He’s forever tweaking the nobs, keying beats, samples and effects. There are times when it looks like elaborate cookery, times when it looks like he’s forcefully trying to mend something on his performance controller, or times when it looks like Meath has played that ‘wire Nick’s stuff to the mains’ electrocution trick again.
Meath moves mesmerically; to dance as she does and sing with such control puts those of us to shame who run out of breath after we’ve put the bin out on refuse collection day. Her movements defy adequate categorisation. They seem more the beautiful actions of a tree or a climbing plant. They are sinuous, organic. It’s moonwalking meets the Charleston. She’s a one-woman dance troupe. ‘HSKT’ was an aerobic workout in itself, whilst ‘Uncatena’ was concluded with a chilling howl, delivered simultaneously with a back-bend, all with perfect balance and pitch.
We got everything we expected, with bells on. ‘Die Young’ gave us searing, firecracker intensity with the most arid humour imaginable – the idea that falling in love thwarts nihilistic plans to live fast and die young. It struck a chord with the SWX crowd, who sang it back with gusto. ‘Kick, Jump, Twist’ and ‘Radio’ were lapped up by the energised masses, and ‘The Glow,’ a self-confessed Meath memoir of “all the people I had crushes on in high school” did nothing to quash any nascent crushes in the room, as well as making many of us wistful and nostalgic for bygone days.
‘Sound’ and ‘Hey Mami’ allowed the clarity of Meath’s voice to come to the fore. The latter saw her provide her own looped backing vocals. ‘Coffee’ was another particular crowd favourite. The song is so mellow that it’s positively decaffeinated, yet it is sublimely rich and warming. Sanborn provides a beat that almost purrs, with an overlaid twinkling chime that beautifully contrasts. When Meath sings “wrap me in your arms,” you feel the song’s embrace.
Their encore first brought the VHS tribute ‘Rewind.’ The concept of replaying and remembering a show like this one is never going to be difficult. They finished with ‘Play it Right,’ which they unquestionably did all evening. There was so much joy in the room that when the lights came up and Hall and Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams (Come True)’ was played, people stayed and danced.