In the late 90’s I saw Gwar. It was in the midst of the Jonbenet Ramsey drama, so if you weren’t there but know anything about the band, you can kind of get where this is going. Really, I was there to see a “Satanic” ska band, Mephiskapheles. The whole night would have given my mother a stroke and probably caused a Footloose style shutdown of my hometown. Luckily, my parents were pretty hands off.
Walking into Madison Theater, to the right of the will call booth in the merch area, was a male blow up doll, which was anatomically correct and fully… inflated. It had Matt’s face printed on it.
Opening act Michael Christmas was entertaining - nothing cutting edge in the hip-hop realm, but creative enough that his specific brand of modern/indie hip-hop and self-deprecation made his 30 or so minute set feel breezy. Considering Matt & Kim’s latest album Almost Everyday- and, really, their musical inclinations starting with Grand- his starting the night made a certain kind of sense. The new album is full of bombastic electronics, which twined between songs throughout their hour and 15-minute set.
The set itself played to new and old fans. I think the shows are just as much for Matt & Kim as they are for the people who listen to the music. And I sincerely appreciated that.
There was a brief debate about how to address the crowd, being that so many in attendance came from north of the river. OHKY was the end result. Their stage set up is spartan, all things considered. Drums, keys, sequencer. And lots of lights. The screen behind them played clips from The Big Lebowski and other oddball classics, turned itself into lyric videos, showed crowds dancing and THE crowd in front of the stage getting down.
One of the inflatable Matt & Kim’s made an early appearance, airily crowd surfing until it met its demise at the hands, or feet, of someone taking part in the festivities. Eventually 6 more would make their way out, fully inflated, ready to party. Among the balloons, it was a softcore Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Somewhere, someone’s prudish mom was fainting, and the morality police were tipping over in their wheelchairs.
Mini covers were interspersed with a surprisingly well mixed setlist of old and new. I fully appreciated the Kendrick Lamar break. But as soon as they would start, Matt & Kim would run headlong into the next round of electronically tinged, keyboard driven, drum thrusted ditties. There was a wall of death that was somehow compared to Kim’s vagina and her past daliences. I feel like I saw even Matt’s face crinkle at the corners in genuine surprise.
Kim briefly flashed the crowd. My sister, who I was sharing commentary of the show with, said she wasn’t surprised. My response: “I, uh, was.” The post-middle aged (read: old) white guys behind us and to our left were beside themselves. This was after they stood in front of my 5 foot 3 -inch tall wife, not a care in the world - my wife eventually had enough and power-posed her way to dominance, staking her claim to the front of the small crowd at the back of the venue. Then Kim broke out the Hulk-sized dildos and used them as floppy, veiny drum logs to slowly, rhythmically bash the floor tom. I chuckled, shook my head.
Throughout it all, though, a sense of pure, unadulterated joy. Simple pleasure in performance. With a side of art. Matt & Kim lean into the quirk, relish in their niche cult status, and play with a fervor and passion that helps feed the unabashed sex, and sexiness, of it all. It’s admittedly intoxicating, and I like to think that my younger, less stoic self would have been front row center, sweaty and hungry for life like they are, like their music is, like so many of their fans are.
2018 is… different. I don’t mean to compare Matt & Kim to a costumed shock rock band, or a 3rd wave ska band that sang about tuna and also The Dark Lord. But there were moments where I had the same sort of… it wasn’t bewilderment, but genuine surprise at what I was seeing. Also, there was, thankfully, WAY less blood and other bodily fluids.
I hope everyone who showed up checked their cynicism at the door. And if you didn’t get to the gig, you’d do well to make sure you’re there to witness things for yourself next time around.