The line of people was visible for blocks around The Myth this past Wednesday night. After freezing rain, a media hiccup, and a Joywave escort, we joined the other 3,000 fans inside. The wait was over for “93X Presents: Uncaged” with Joywave, Nothing More, and Cage the Elephant.
“How many of you have seen us before?” asked Joywave frontman Daniel Armbruster. The reply was a dismal display of hands (including mine) and one lone scream. “Great!” Armbruster shouted, “Everyone!” Despite the fact that Joywave was facing a crowd seemingly unfamiliar with them, (if you think you’ve never heard a Joywave song, I think you’re wrong) the band’s energy was never down for a second. The assembly soon began to warm up (literally warm up, people had been waiting in the rain), but just as I expected, Joywave demanded every single attendee’s attention when they performed their recent radio hit “Somebody New.” Hands were up, heads were bobbing, and the crowd finally woke up.
Despite hitting No. 1 on US Alt. charts, they skipped performing their Minneapolis radio debut and collaboration with Big Data, “Dangerous.” The New York five-piece closed the set with their very first single, “Tongues.” Infectiously poppy and almost like musical glitch art, this is one of those songs that you simply can’t stand still for. Armbruster held out his microphone for a portion of the chorus, which only a handful of people sang. “That was a few people here and a couple there. All of this,” the vocalist shouted as he gestured around the entire venue, “All of this was bad.” “Tongues” has a slight pause during which Armbruster ordered everyone to crouch down. The song then jumps back into Joywave’s signature electronic indie sound and all of The Myth jumped up with it before the band exited.
Strobes and screams introduced Nothing More, as Jonny Hawkins emerged, already shirtless. Although they are technically classified as alternative/prog metal, I think a more accurate codification would be radio-dad-rock-made-by-young-people-with-some-dubstep, or trying-to-bridge-the-gap-between-AvengedSevenfold-Skrillex-and-Metallica. Devil horns and sporadic mosh pits popped up. Throughout the set the kick drum matched the strobe lights which matched the fists pounding the ripe air; the symbolic synchronicity was a bit unnerving. Nothing More’s entire half-hour had a strange plastic feeling. Manufactured for counter-culture. Anti-image as an image. Whatever genre they may be, no matter what their story is, regardless of what a strange juxtaposition Nothing More was between Joywave and Cage the Elephant, the herd loved them.
Finally, contest winner Darla was brought on stage to introduce Cage the Elephant. The crowd was instantly electrified when Matt Shultz graced the stage, clad in blindingly white pre-Labor-Day pants. By the second song, Shultz was in a tug of war between security and the audience, until finally settling on a road case sandwiched between the stage and the barricade. Channeling some strange brew of Beck and Mick Jagger all night, Matt Shultz was drenched in sweat by the fourth song and never spent a minute in the same spot. It should not be possible to maintain such vocal balance and consistency when a person runs and shakes and bobs and weaves as much as he did. (Honestly, I think they had a roadie hired specifically to untangle Shultz’s mic cord.) The mob erupted at the opening notes of “Cigarette Daydreams,” but the excitement doubled when it was followed with “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” Not even The Myth’s bartenders could stop themselves from dancing along. At the risk of aging the audience, lighters (actual lighters, not cellphones) rose up from the crowd during “Telescope.” The individual flames were met with blue disco lights that flooded the nightclub and intensified the rarity of a slow song from such a high-energy group.
Picking up again and leaving his tracks on every inch of the stage, Matt’s favorite spot was the strip in front of the monitors that he paraded like a runway. He fully dove into the crowd during “Back Against the Wall.” And “It’s Just Forever.” And the next song. And basically every song after that. As expected at any large show now, Cage the Elephant left the stage only to come back for a performance of “Shake Me Down.” Shultz stripped off his velvet cardigan and graphic tee when they finally played “Sabertooth Tiger.” He leapt from the stage, over the photo pit, and deep into the crowd. When he emerged he stood atop the shoulders of the audience, collapsed, and returned to the stage only to repeat the entire process for the end of the song and show.
Joywave entered the venue and played to initially apathetic listeners, but there is no doubt that many of them were simply unknowing future fans. An odd fit, Nothing More had a fan reaction that truly spoke for itself. But the creme dela creme, Cage the Elephant, was audibly and aesthetically unmatched. They were a spectacle, but not at the jeopardy of the music. Their hodgepodge of psychedelic garage funk punk is somehow even better live and I am so pleased to have been a part of it.