Saturday, February 26, 2011

Glasser @ XOYO

I distinctly remember the first time I heard Glasser: I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of our flat, eating Domino's Extravaganza pizza and drinking Corona from the bottle, on the cusp of a food coma after binging post-gym workout (I'm not sure Domino's is what the gym advises you to eat post-workout - in fact, I believe one trainer specifically instructed me to "eat nuts, not bread - bread is evil" so heaven knows what she thinks of Domino's).  "Who's this?" I asked John dreamily (which came out more like "Whosh thish?" with bits of sausage flying out of my mouth).  "It sounds like a cross between These New Puritans and jj and Bjork ("It schoundchs like a crosh between ..." you get it)."  "It's Glasser, one of my Rough Trade CD club albums," he said, carefully chewing his pizza before speaking in order not to follow in my disgusting ways.  "Humph," I mumbled in response.  "I like it."  But by this point I had drifted off to comatose sleep (burp).

The next day, I forgot all about Glasser and that album, "Ring", but then we started listening to it again and again - in the car, in the flat, and I began to love it.  I'd put "Apply" on as soon as I walked out the door in the morning and thought of that and "Home" as sort of my battle hymns as I set off to conquer wheelie bags and a new job.  And they were quite effective.

So it was no surprise that when John's birthday rolled around (and I was completely stumped in terms of presents at approximately 8 pm the night before) that I bought tickets for the next Glasser show (or "gig" as they shudderingly refer to such performances here in the UK - ugh, ugh, ugh, how I hate that word) at XOYO in Shoreditch.  There are loads of bad reviews of XOYO on the web - most label it as "the worst venue I've ever been in my life" and "the staff is rude and there is no air con, making it for a very sweaty evening", etc. so I had the worst expectations.  One reviewer complained, "The stage is RIGHT by the stairs, which is ridiculous."  Or makes for a great getaway, depending on how you see it.

Anyways, the show started at 8 and we arrived around 8:30 to catch the last couple songs from Lia Ices, an ethereal, breathy Olivia Palermo/Whitney Port-esque lookalike with soothing vocals and the best ankle-boot and tights combo I've ever seen (sorry, I should have concentrated on the music, but I was pretty fascinated by her perfectly thrown-together look).  But the crowd soon grew restless until Sampha joined the stage and did a set of (in my view) rather ambitious five songs complete with a surprisingly strong voice set against dissonant electronic beats - different and extremely intelligent, but I don't think anyone in the crowd (including me) really appreciated it or got it (there's a great remix of the xx's Basic Space by him out there if you're interested, though).  It wouldn't be for another half hour until Glasser (AKA Cameron Mesirow) reached the stage and in the time it took for me and John to get a fabulous spot on the left side of the stage, a massive dickhead with a massive coif (and yes, I am totally entitled to call this 6'11" 18-year-old punk - and his girlfriend, while I'm at it - a dickhead, because his coif was backcombed into a rather phallic interpretation of a rat's nest and also mostly because he and his lookalike androgynous gf were 6'11" and pushed themselves, rudely and forcefully in front of the people around them who were all around 5'3 or under) pushed in front of us.  So of course, the rage took over and I managed to step on some poor hipsters' feet in my rage and got us a prime position about 4 feet away from center stage.

But the brilliant thing about XOYO is that it's indeed such a small venue (a little bigger than my flat, I don't think, if you knocked out the walls), that it makes for some extremely up-close-and-personal viewing.  When Glasser finally took the stage with her band (who were in patterned boilersuits, nonetheless) and launched into "Apply" in what seemed to resemble a cobbled together traditional Korean (?) outfit but reinvented with a vintage blouse and hooped skirt, the hipster crowd went into a sort of rapturous/awed/stunned/swooning cheer.  Her voice, as powerful and perfectly on pitch as it is on the album, generated a crazy amount of energy in the small room and I was grateful that we could be so close to feel it.  

Halfway through the performance, her energetic dancing seemed to have caused her to rip a hole in her skirt, prompting her to laugh and exclaim, "Oh no!  Look what I've done!  What do I do?" as she looked bewilderingly around her.  She picked up the excess fabric: "Do I throw it over my shoulder like a continental soldier, as we say on the other side?" (I was the only one who laughed, since I was probably the only American in the room who knew the childhood rhyme)  And this might sound condescending, but I just loved the way she spoke: her totally, down-to-earth and very Californian accent.  She thanked the audience after every song and, aside from the performance aspect of the show, she seemed, well, almost very ordinary.

One of the best aspects of live performances is hearing songs from the album played just a little bit differently and Glasser did an amazing, stripped-down version of "T" midway through the show.  Her voice, accompanied only by electric guitar (which was made to sound like a synth) was so moving and bare, that at times one probably felt one should look away.  "Wow," she said with a generous smile after breaking the spell.  "Thanks so much!  I've never heard it so quiet before!  Not a lot of people have the patience to sit through that, so yeah, thanks!"

Oh, Cameron.  If only you knew how we (secretly) worshiped you.  Or at least, I do.

Listen to "Apply" here:

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