March 22nd, 2014
Murat Egyptian Room
For a band that gained its popularity through the clean, tidy world of Apple (an Apple commercial being a great way to break through in the past decade), Grouplove is refreshingly ragged. While they may have a real bubble-gum pop sensibility, the L.A. band is rooted in early 90’s grunge and indie rock, not hiding their ove of Nirvana, Pixies, and Modest Mouse. The band cancels out that aggression with its fun-loving hippie spirit, making for a formula made for Millennials to love. I caught the band with my brother Alex in Indianapolis last weekend, and was pleasantly surprised with the band’s chemistry and energy.
The opener Alex Winston certainly has an interesting background, having been classically-trained in opera and previously being featured as Chuck Berry’s ongoing opening act. Her set, however, was pretty uninspired and about as generic a modern pop sound as you can gather, looking the part of Lorde and sounding the part of Florence and the Machine without as booming of a voice. I realize this sort of thing isn’t necessarily tailored toward me, but the lack of any distinguishable qualities struck me as a problem for Winston, who seems to be playing to all the modern pop conventions that have gained radio play without any special qualities of her own.
Grouplove entered the stage with a bang to ASAP Rocky and Skrillex’s club banger “Wild For the Night” which noticeably lifted the energy of the room. The band followed with “I’m With You”, the running electro-pop dream that opens the band’s latest album Spreading Rumours. Opting for their love of the EDM, the band’s live show found them leaning on a more electronic sound than their records, a move all-too common in today’s music landscape. While I have nothing against a band exploring new territory, the move towards electronic music doesn’t play to the band’s strengths and hippie spirit, making the more electronic tracks flounder by comparison. Thus was the case with the live set, with set closer “Slow” leaving people feeling punished by the synthetic assault , and other electronic tracks produced among the worst crowd responses.
The band shines on stage due to their chemistry and clear love of playing live. Dual singers Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper have a blast bouncing verses off each other, even playing around with Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” to great effect. Most bands that breakout due to a big pop hit like “Tongue-Tied” you can tell begrudgingly play the songs live, but Grouplove wore their biggest hits like badges of honor. “Itchin’ On a Photograph” has to be the biggest earworm in their entire catalog, and Zucconi’s slack-jawed singing and rambunctious energy is even greater live. The same success came with the mischievous “Colours”, which ended the night with a Pixies-style exclamation mark. “Way to Go” and “Tongue-Tied” similarly saw the band at the heights of their energy, loving the feedback and energy reciprocated from the crowd.
The band’s show production was effective but refreshingly simple, with a sheet backdrop used to display the frenetic lights and bright colors. With their long-hair head bashing and grunge fashion mixed with the lights and smoke, much of the set could have been mistaken for the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video. While the band clearly has the IT factor when it comes to performing live, the band’s borrowed sound holds them back from being something truly special. From the “Gigantic” bass line on “Raspberries” to the complete theft of “Borderlines and Aliens” which is literally just a faster and heavier version of “All Apologies”, the band wears their influences a bit too much on their sleeves. While I do love when Hooper and Zucconi channel Frank Black and Kim Diehl, the band could afford finding a better way of channeling their energy in new and fresh ways.
If you love Grouplove, you won’t be disappointed in their live show which is infectious and just plain fun. But if you are weary of the band, their live show may not remove your criticisms, but the band will win you over with its charisma and chemistry.
Can’t Miss: “Itchin’ On a Photograph”, “Lovely Cup”, “Tongue-Tied”, “Bitin’ the Bullet”
Can’t Hit: “Slow”, “Borderlines and Aliens”, “Beans On Pizza”