Over the course of the evening at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Matt (the keyboard-playing half of Matt and Kim) expressed over and over how he hoped 2009 wouldn’t be a year of change exactly, but of moving forward. It was a big night for the group, and this mantra is a great summary of both the band’s new cd and their rising fame. In the same week that President Obama was inaugurated, Matt and Kim released their sophomore effort, Grand, and played a sold-out show to their hometown of Brooklyn. Only four years ago they were playing in lofts and warehouses to almost no one.
On a purely musical level, the show was nothing to write home about. The set had no arc. They played their show-stopper “Yea Yeah” somewhere in the first third and then played their brand new single (for the first time ever live), “Daylight,” third to last. It had absolutely no rise or fall at all. Kim is a good drummer and I don’t want to suggest otherwise, but the whole thing was sloppy and directionless. I honestly think they were so excited about everything that was going on they didn’t have too much time to concentrate on the music. Plus, having a great set isn’t exactly what makes or breaks a Matt and Kim show.
What made the show a success (which it definitely was, despite my nitpicking) was the general feeling in the air. Matt and Kim’s music is an incredibly youthful indie-punk. It’s fun and entirely accessible. Matt’s whiny voice is not all that different from some of the pop-punk/emo you hear on the radio. Plus, it’s great to mosh to, which is a rare opportunity for a lot of teenagers these days. In other words, Matt and Kim = 18-year-old heaven. This certainly speaks to the age of the crowd. I was probably the oldest person in my near vicinity (no one else had on a drink wristband as far as I could see) and I’m 22. Yeah. Exactly.
The youthful vibe last night translated into something wonderful. Sometimes when a crowd is heavily skewed towards the younger side, things can go bad quickly. Someone inevitably gets too drunk, some pint-sized couple won’t stop publicly displaying their affection, or a tipsy fraternity dude needs to learn that you don’t need to push everyone during the slow songs, too. Last night, however, the youthful vibe made the whole show seem genuinely enthusiastic, a refreshing break from the pretentious posturing that can be the norm at events in Brooklyn. This was in no small part due to the fact that Matt and Kim are just straight-up amazing people. They pour all of their enthusiasm into their songs and their performances. The love in the room for them was palpable. The crowd was buzzing with warmth and understated appreciation, an emotion that felt both deeper and more sincere than typical fandom exuded at concerts. If there’s one thing I walked away from this show with, it’s that Matt and Kim are local heroes because they truly love what they do. They pointed a camera at the audience and projected the image onto the stage wall because they wanted to make sure that we knew the show wasn’t just about them, it was about the experience we all had together.
The local Brooklyn aspect of the show was key. Brooklyn is such a hegemonic idea of a place for indie rock bands to come from these days that it’s almost a throw-away. But everything, from Matt’s constant thank-yous and reminders that they loved playing in every loft and warehouse to Kim’s “Brooklyn” t-shirt, reiterated the fact that they are proud to be from Brooklyn. Most bands move to the borough to be part of a scene and find fame. Matt and Kim have made Brooklyn their home, and the local love that filled the room last night was rare and impressive. The roster of Brooklyn acts that performed before the dou – NinjaSonik, Spank Rock, and the delightfully whimsical Rude Mechanical Orchestra – clearly all genuinely loved Matt and Kim, as well.
All of this relates back to Matt and Kim’s new album Grand. As Matt repeated throughout the evening, he loves his life right now and thus wants to focus on moving forward, not just change. When you’re a band like Matt and Kim, it could be easy to get stuck writing the same songs over and over and tread in a swamp of poppy mediocrity. It would also be too easy to completely change their sound. Instead, Grand finds the duo maturing and evolving- a very pleasant surprise and a difficult thing for a punk twosome to accomplish. The two stand-out tracks, “Daylight” and “Good ‘Ol Fashioned Nightmare,” are far more textured and subtle than any tracks on their debut album, but they don’t sacrifice any of that signature Matt and Kim sound.
I’m glad that Matt and Kim were true to themselves both at their exuberant show last night and on their new album. Goodness and warmth exude from them, and if they keep following their guts, they should continue to gain fans for years to come.