Right now in Austin the music is going harder than ever. The more visible scenes such as indie and country have made a splash on the international level, and, if you know where to look, you can find a burgeoning and deeply embedded scene in nearly every other conceivable genre of modern music. It’s a great time to be here, but it’s also an odd time. Our truly staggering amount of clubs and venues, combined with an equally enormous variety of musicians to fill them, not to mention fans who are willing to patronize them, has created a weird system of club specialization in which each venue has to carve out a certain section of the scene or scenes in order to draw visitors and survive. In no other scenes is this more true than the electronic music scene and the indie scene, and that is what was foremost in my mind when I saw Digitalism and Data Romance at The Parish on December 9.
First, let’s look at the openers Data Romance. If you’re into sultry female vocals that get under your skin, nails and soul like the happy grime from an exhausting and sexuality-heavy night-turned-day on the town, then you need to listen to Data Romance. Like a pared-down Portishead that turned the electronics to 11 and went for sexy female vocals over creepy, Data Romance took the stage strong and had the crowd bobbing heads up and down the whole set. I dug their simple set up (just two people, one mic, some electronic drumpads and a Microkorg), especially because they made it sound anything but simple. Vocalist Amy Kirkpatrick is a dark-eyed ethereal stunner, and beat master Ajay Bhattacharyya weaves his M83-esque sounds in with her voice in a way that accomplishes some dark, yet deeply emotional techy music. The only issue I had with their set was that much of their sound is similar to itself, but this could be chalked up to the fact that they’re a young act with not a lot of material yet. I’m definitely going to be keeping up with this group.
The stars of the night were, of course, Digitalism, but I was unprepared for the amount of fan love the German duo (plus one touring drummer) received. I’ve never seen The Parish so packed, and everyone there seemed to be thoroughly familiar with Digitalism’s entire catalogue of music.
Digitalism is a huge name, both in the electronic music scene and in the indie scene, because they combine elements of both of those genres in their music to create something unique. It’s this electronic dance music (or, as some call it, EDM) meets indie rock vibe that The Parish seems to be cultivating with many of their recent shows, and it’s an interesting thing to witness. The show seemed like a rave in some ways and an indie show in others, but it also felt like neither. It had the hard core non-stop LED lights and dancing of a rave, so much so that the floor was noticeably shaking up and down (my photographer says she was scared it might break), but it also had the back-and-forth intimacy and connection that you get from having a lead singer. Digitalism really played to this electronic-indie contrast by blending purely electronic portions of the show where both main members played with their sound-making toys and portions where singer Jens Moelle took on the lead-singer role and İsmail “Isi” Tüfekçi took over the toys.
Digitalism’s set was one highlight after the next, with the two having incredible chemistry with the crowd, filler between major tracks that sounded just as good or better than their well-known songs and an unbelievably cool LED display shining out over the stage which kept surprising the fans with deliciously apt visuals such as pixelated hearts and a ride on a roller coaster. Audience-favorites “I Want I Want” and “Reeperbahn” had Jens truly locking with the audience, who obligingly lost their shit for him. The tour itself is backing up the release of their new album, “I Love You, Dude,” which to be honest I don’t have strong feelings about one way or the other, but when you see them perform it live, it makes a huge deal more sense.
The crowd at The Parish on December 9 wasn’t your typical raver scene, there were no fuzzy cat-eared hats, no Go-Go boots and few glowsticks. but it also lacked the over abundance of ironic facial hair and skinny pants that you can’t avoid at most indie shows. It wasn’t even your Top 40 dance club vibe, or the more upscale lounge experience of clubs like Lanai or Roial. Instead, it was something in the middle of all of that, and though my club-going heart will always live in the pure electronic clubs, it was a delightfully refreshing thing to see and experience. It had the energy and passion that indie shows used to have without the pretention that plagues it these days, and it had the don’t-give-a-fuck-just-dance feeling of a good EDM show. To put it simply, it was an all-around blast. I’m excited to see where this kind of thing goes in Austin, and if clubs like The Parish keep bringing in quality of this magnitude, it looks like I’ll get the chance.