Twin Shadow raises temperature in Chum's
If you go to Cholmondeley's on a typical Saturday night, you usually have plenty of space to move around, chat with your peers or maybe even catch one of Brandeis' many a caPpella groups. However, the packed, hot and sweaty scene at Chum's the Saturday night of Sept. 29 suggested a different story.
Following the successful Student Events billing of Santigold and Theophilus London in Gosman Sports and Convocation Center for the annual Fall Fest Concert, Brandeis was lucky enough to have the critically acclaimed George Lewis, Jr., who records under the moniker Twin Shadow, take a stop off his Ton Up North American Tour and play to a small (relative to his other shows on tour), but eager, crowd in the packed intimacy of Chum's.
For those of you who have never heard of Twin Shadow, this is kind of a big deal. With a haunting take on 80s new wave combined with his own hazy brand of contemporary pop, George Lewis, Jr. has risen rapidly through the indie music ranks to become one of its most recognized figures. George Lewis Jr. started as Twin Shadow in 2006, after relocating to Brooklyn, N.Y. from Boston. During his time in Boston, Lewis undertook various musical occupations that ranged from composing for a touring dance company to fronting the punk band Mad Man Films.
Since his relocation to Brooklyn and subsequent artistic reinvention, Lewis started recording and performing under the name Twin Shadow. His ascension began when Chris Taylor, bassist of fellow indie giant Grizzly Bear, took notice and promptly signed Lewis to his Terrible Records label along with producing his debut album, Forget, in 2010, which was placed among Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums list for that year. Fast forward two years, and Twin Shadow has come out with yet another critically acclaimed album, Confess, which is largely inspired by a motorcycle crash he survived a few years ago, pushing his sound in a deeper and darker direction without sacrificing the pop sensibilities that got him where he is today.
Now, back to the show. The mood was set as opening act Silent Drape Runners performed a sort of spoken word over grainy, lo-fi electronic beats. Silent Drape Runners, a Brooklyn-based duo consisting of Russ Marshalek and Sophie Weiner (a former Brandeis student) provided more of a creepy ambience than a live show, as they performed in the back of the venue while the crowd continuously piled in for the main act. The duo performed a few originals and Weiner, who was on the mic, ruminated intermittently on various topics such as the Furby that accompanied them, the main act following, and even her experiences at Brandeis itself. Following this, Marshalek took to his laptop for a short DJ set in between acts. After around 20 minutes, with no announcement, a few black-clad figures casually strolled through the crowd and took to the stage. Twin Shadow was about to perform.
The time was somewhere around 11:30 p.m. and Chum's was packed. The 100-something students lucky enough to grab tickets from WBRS before they ran out were eagerly awaiting the rare treat of having such an acclaimed artist perform in the intimate setting of the campus coffeehouse. While tickets were in fact sold out prior to the show, not everyone with a ticket came, so a good portion of the large line that formed outside the venue, a testament to Twin Shadow's popularity and following, was allowed in. As Twin Shadow and his comrades broke into the first song, something of a sensory overload occurred. The second Lewis struck the first note on his guitar, an array of lightbulbs lit up the mic stands and amplifiers as a fog machine slowly enveloped the crowd, giving each audience member an intimate moment with his or her own respective twin shadow.
This grandiose explosion of energy within the intimate confines of the venue defined the larger than life atmosphere that Twin Shadow evoked throughout the night. Three songs into the set, Twin Shadow brought out his hit from recent album Confess, entitled "5 Seconds." That was all the time the crowd needed to erupt in ecstatic revelry. The audience continued to ride this energetic wave throughout the night. However, it crested halfway through the show when Lewis heard that it was someone in the venue's birthday. Moments after hearing the news, Lewis gave a birthday present that wouldn't soon be forgotten. The timeless chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana punctured the air as he transformed the classic into a custom happy birthday song for Holden Collick '14. As a result of all this excitement, Collick elevated himself above the audience in a celebratory 21st birthday crowd surf.
From this point on, the fog machine obfuscated the stage and all that could be seen were the continuously flashing lights. Looking at the stage from the crowd was like being in the middle of a lightning storm soundtracked by the thunderous propulsion of Twin Shadow's music. It definitely felt hot and sticky enough inside Chum's, the perfect recipe for such weather. Lewis recognized this and prompted the audience members to take their shirts off, and, being as hot it was, the crowd gladly took the excuse to strip down a layer or two.
Winding down the set, Twin Shadow closed with the song "Golden Light," a perfect description of what could be seen at that point-the warm glow of the lights shining through the billowing fog that permeated the venue.
Just like a lightning storm, the show seemed over before it started. Not because it was short by any means, but because the hazy, introspective atmosphere it provided made it easy to get lost in the sights, sounds and lyrics that reverberated around the venue during Twin Shadow's performance. As his past two album titles, Forget and Confess suggest, Lewis' music evokes a darkly romantic connection to the past. Through dark-leaning pop and vintage bass-lines, Twin Shadow looks at these moments retroactively and provides a lighter musical counterpart to contrast the darker lyrics, resulting in a cathartic and memorable experience to be had by all.
With nearly everyone shirtless in a cloud of fog by the end of the show, Twin Shadow provided the perfect ending to a rare, intimate performance. There was no doubt that as the set winded down, everyone was on the same wavelength-equally into the music, and equally wondering if a show could ever match the energy, intimacy and experience provided that crisp fall night in Chum's coffeehouse.
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