A large contingent of South Florida's teenagers began their three day weekend by hanging out with their parents on a Friday night. It's safe to say, for once, neither party had any complaints. This generational ceasefire was thanks to the dazzling, musical fireworks of Canadian electro-dream pop duo, Purity Ring.
Despite being a wonderfully glittery dance rock outfit, perfect for the Magic City, Purity Ring didn't quite sell out the Fillmore Miami Beach last Friday, September 11. They just don't have that kind of draw yet. On the bright side, fans were able to move about more freely and find better viewing spots – a necessary tactic considering the number of camera phones in the air; more on that later.
Additionally, only a venue as opulent as the Fillmore with its rich acoustics could hope to corral Purity Ring's bombastic and operatic brand of electronic pop.
Opening for the pair was HANA, an American singer/songwriter. Beginning her career primarily as an acoustic indie rock musician, HANA shifted her focus this year to a more production heavy style. Receiving praise from the likes of Grimes and Lorde (and sharing qualities similar to both), she's found recent success in this new direction with the singles “Clay” and “Avalanche.”
At first, the cavernous, empty space behind HANA seemed ready to swallow the lone figure, but she quickly made use of all that room. Coming across like a female Chet Faker, HANA provided all her own looping beats and ghostly rhythms, while she snaked her way back and forth across the stage. She unleashed a hypnotic voice, fit for a posh late night lounge.
HANA opened the show.
Photo by Alex Markow
Purity Ring were even more adept at converting all that blackness into something visually spectacular. Adorning the stage were two sets of luminous curtains on either side, made of multiple rows of hanging light-up beads. In the center stood a raised platform with a series of columns that dipped towards the middle. This operated as the nerve center of the futuristic sultan's den where instrumentalist Corin Riddick orchestrated beats, the columns flaring with an alien glow each time he tapped one of the crystal-shaped heads.
Vocalist Megan James made herself larger by using elevated constructs to rise above the crowd. Her soaring, girlish voice seemed to float through and over everyone. Gliding gracefully from side to side, this lithe creature drifted like a mist of pure music, clad in a form-fitting white space commander outfit, complete with crescent moon shoulder pads.
Behind her, the hanging beads served as visual equalizers, waves of light in shifting patterns appearing at the behest of each song. It felt like a concert taking place in the Tron universe. It was a playful dance between light and sound that, despite all the digital aspects of the show, felt completely natural and organic.
Speaking of bright lights, James only addressed the crowd a handful of times and twice that was to politely request fans turn off the flash on their phones when taking pictures. Miami mostly obliged.
Corin Riddick's set up looked like something out of Alien.
Photo by Alex Markow
It's difficult to know what James is like when she's angry or frustrated without knowing her personally, but it must have been annoying being consistently blinded by the idiots in the front row and their perpetual photo flash grenades.
Back in the real world with real experiences, Purity Ring shook the building with singles such as “Bodyache” and “Push Pull.” Both hail from the band's sophomore LP, Another Eternity, an album they played in its entirety. “Bodyache” was particularly rousing, vibrating the floorboards, the walls, and the very bones of every already excited fan.
At the epicenter of the earthquake was James. She was a sorceress putting the townspeople under her spell before destroying their village with a crackling, gorgeous cacophony of lighting and thunder, an act of mass destruction Miami couldn't have been happier about.
Akin to Phantogram and Chvrches, one of Purity Ring's dominant features is their use of slick hip-hop style grooves. Coupled with the occasional crunching EDM punch of a techno hit, as on “Flood on the Floor” for example, they lit fires under both James and the fans, both deliriously gyrating throughout. Several times Riddick looped her vocals, creating another layer to the already thick musical fog bank.
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Megan James reaches out to touch the crowd.
Photo by Alex Markow
During “Fineshrine,” one of their better known first singles off of their debut, Shrines, James reached out into the crowd, grazing fingertips with fans, like a benevolent disco pope, blessing them all. By the time they closed with the single song encore of the brilliant “Begin Again,” it at least felt that way.