Photos by Tim Draut
Purity Ring and Blue Hawaii stunned the crowd at The Independent on Tuesday night during the second of two consecutive sold out shows at the venue. Blue Hawaii is accompanying their fellow Canadian male-female electronic act for a stretch of California dates between Purity Ring’s two Coachella sets. The double bill is also playing a third SF show at Bottom of the Hill tonight.
Blue Hawaii started playing around 8:40 as the crowd began to fill in. The duo was particularly adaptive to the vibe of the audience, announcing that they would start off slow and gradually assess how everyone was feeling. The audience cheered when singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston, who also plays in Braids, admitted that she had spent the day getting wine-drunk at a beach in the Sunset. After playing a few live adaptations of material from sophomore album Untogether, she asked the crowd if they were ready to hear more “aggressive” songs. Feeling comfortable, she shared a theory that people tend to appreciate more aggressive music because it distracts them from their daily lives.
While Blue Hawaii sounds mellow and ethereal on record, they crank up their energy levels for live shows. Standell-Preston hit the high notes, tweaking vocal delays while Alex Cowan kept his production more or less synchronized with the pace of the crowd. There were several moments where things really picked up, with the act going all in on fast and heavy dance beats. When Blue Hawaii announced their last song, the crowd begged them to play another. Standell-Preston and Cowan obliged.
Darkness fell over The Independent around 9:50, and fog emerged from the set as Purity Ring made their way to the stage. The unique visual aspect of Purity Ring’s live shows surpasses virtually every other act I’ve witnessed over the two years that the two-piece has been together. Corin Roddick was positioned behind his homemade instrument (with parts including MIDI-triggered lanterns), as vocalist Megan James sensually moved around stage. Color-changing luminescent cocoons were suspended above, and one actually fell into the crowd at the end of the set, but was saved from being destroyed.
Starting with “Amenamy”, Purity Ring performed every track from its debut LP Shrines, plus an awesome cover of Soulja Boy’s “Grammy”. During a few songs, James contributed to the live percussion, hitting a mounted kick drum that was illuminated by each strike. On a couple occasions, her drumstick bounced off the drum and flew into the crowd. She laughed it off, even when she completely missed the high note on “Ungirthed”. Sneaking off between songs to steal little sips of wine, she looked especially charming while striking a “rawr” pose towards the audience.
The Tuesday crowd was forgiving of Purity Ring’s second-night silliness, transfixed by the experimental pop duo’s innovative lighting and gorgeously chopped-up live production. It was all over by 10:40, and everyone went home satisfied as the band began to break down its elaborate set pieces.