Fresh off the heels of their new release “La Foret,” Jaime Stewart and Caralee McElroy of Seattle’s Xiu Xiu hit the road in support of their new record. Their music is best known for its gentle transitions into chaos that border on schizophrenia.
Their D.C. show was at the Warehouse Next Door, rapidly becoming known for its unique brand of music shows. Opening up for Xiu Xiu was Nedelle, a young lady from San Francisco who can be described as a folk throwback to the ‘60s era. Her vibe oozed San Francisco, from the way she was dressed to her attitude towards her songs. Cute and gentle, Nedelle played five or six songs that touched on various subjects ranging from war to her dead kitty. All in all, the opener was adorable but really a false representation of what the show was going to be like.
The next band on the bill was Oakland, Calif.‘s Yellow Swans, an experimental noise duo that follows in the same tradition of bands such as Wolf Eyes and Black Dice, only dancier. It was easily visible that the crowd was not prepared for the velocity and force with which the Yellow Swans played their music.
As soon as the drum machines hit, kids cleared the floor, probably to go outside and check if they had lost their hearing. For those who stayed (and there were many), it was a real treat and a surprise. Their recorded music pales in comparison to their live act, best described as “an experience.” Their set was only 20 minutes long, and they played one long and tragically catchy song that, as their lead singer put it, “was about breaking down borders and barriers between us all and feeling safe.” This might be a candidate for the most ironic statement of the year because they blasted through 20 minutes of unpredictable, infectious and abusive music.
After 20 minutes of aural assault, Xiu Xiu took the stage. “La Foret” is probably their best album since their sophomore release, “A Promise.” It has a more violent tone, one not seen since their first album. This certainly reflected in their live performance, which boasted a more aggressive and dance-oriented set.
Xiu Xiu opened up with a new song from “La Foret” called “Mousey Toy” that set the tone for the rest of their performance. This song, building stress upon stress until exploding, was the perfect metaphor for how active their set was. McElroy almost knocked her cymbals into the crowd numerous times amidst the violent thumps of Stewart’s legs on the fragile stage floor. A thorough surprise came when they whipped out “I Broke Up,” an old song from their first record; arguably the most damaging and chaotic song in their repertoire. The song is most notable for its breakdown, which is essentially Stewart screaming at the top of his lungs, “This is the worst vacation ever! I’m going to cut open your forehead with a roofing shingle!”
The duo proceeded to play a bunch of old and new favorites, most of which the crowd was not familiar with. The highlight of the night was probably when Stewart hit the drum machine and the familiar beats of “Apistat Commander” were heard. If one wants to gain a true understanding of Xiu Xiu, one would need to listen to this song - a perfect representation of the band’s sound and feeling.
They finished off their set with a rendition of the crowd favorite “Sad Pony Guerilla Girl,” ending in true Xiu Xiu fashion: hauntingly distressing, yet strangely satisfactory. All in all, it was an excellent show that left everyone in attendance walking away with a smile on their face, a disturbing feeling in their heart and probable hearing loss..