The woman takes the stage, alone, and sits on a stool with a guitar. She sings a simple, gentle song, but soon the lyrics start to sound surprisingly confessional and uncomfortably frank ("I know that I fucked up, Perhaps you have fucked up, too"). During her song, a young man just sort of wanders onto the stage, looking a little bit like some lost roadie, and pauses behind her. While the woman continues to sing, he places his hands on her shoulders and kisses the back of her head. When the song ends, he takes the guitar from her and accompanies her on the next song. While they perform, a projector shows film clips of a soccer game, a couple on the beach, a businessman in the city, whales, and other assorted scenes. Most of the audience does not see the film clips, as they're projected onto a side of the stage and partially shadowed by the woman's head. Odd ambient sounds fill the spaces between the guitar and her voice, and blend with the noise of the audience.
The woman is Elin Kastlander and her accompanist is Joakim Benon, and together they form the band jj. They performed in Atlanta last Wednesday, opening for the xx. The theme for the evening was apparently double lower-case letters. The young audience, anxious to see the headliners, pretty much ignored jj and talked through most of the performance. I listened and got something from it, but I don't know what that something was.
Virtually all of the music was pre-recorded with Kastlander singing over tapes. Benon often just stood there with the guitar and frequently walked off stage altogether. Here's a video clip of their performance at Knoxville's Big Ears Festival last weekend, a few days after the Atlanta show, to give you an idea of what their performance was like.
Not to everybody's taste, I admit. The performance ended with a sort of symmetry - the last number featured Kastlander on guitar again, playing alone while seated back on the stool before walking off stage. The whole set was like a dream bookended by the two solo performances, or a long phantasmagoric interlude between two songs. Not that anyone else in the audience seemed to notice.
The first act of the evening was Nosaj Thing performing his post-apocalyptic electronica. I have no idea how his name is pronounced - when I say it, it sounds like "No Such Thing." He performed alone, bent over his instruments like a d.j. over a turntable, shooting blippy little bullets and ghostly echoes over the heads of the audience, even though at the time (a little before 9), there were very few people in the audience and I saw able to enjoy his set from the front row (I moved back later as the theater filled to avoid the chatter of the crowd standing in front of the stage).
On a personal note, this will be my last music post for a while, mostly by virtue of the fact that I don't have tickets for any more concerts over the next couple of weeks. Also, I'm aware of the awkwardness of an old man critiquing young people's music, and I'm getting tired of sounding like one of the patrons of Sulimay's Restaurant.