Florence Welch told a crowd of several thousand halfway through Florence
and the Machine's set on Saturday night, the crescendos of which rang
dramatically through the echo chambers of a stone Archway in Brooklyn's
DUMBO neighborhood (note to NYC bookers: more concerts should be held
here). That new material included the chamber pop powerhouses "Shake It
Off" and "What The Water Gave Me," which Welch has said was
influenced by a plethora of key Jazz Age visual motifs, including the
works of Polish Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka and Austrian
Symbolist Gustav Klimt.
At six feet tall, Welch seems almost regal in her sweeping,
Charleston-worthy gowns and newly finger-waved and tucked hairdo. As she
noted, her new album, Ceremonials (out November 1st), is about
"raising the sound and visual to the next level"; seeing her embody
that grandeur live, it's clear she's also elevated the stakes for
maximal pop drama.
She was on stage as part of the weekend-long Creators Project
festival, a progressive music, film and art event now in its second
year. This year's musical performance roster spanned the globe, with
Chinese indie rockers Queen Sea Big Shark, Scottish electronic wizard
Optimo and French electronic kings Justice all performing over eight
hours on Saturday - not to mention Karen O's in-demand "psycho opera" Stop the Vergens, which was playing at St. Ann's Warehouse nearby.
Further diverging from last year's single day, multi-floored
spectacle at Manhattan's Milk Studios, the Creators Project's new DUMBO
setting also cast a decidedly festival-like ambience to the experience.
This venue switch automatically granted the event more ambulatory power
- literally, in the sense you had to venue-hop through its new
CMJ-level set-up - but also in its musical agenda, which was decidedly
international and electronic in flavor this season. Indeed, this was a
great moment to witness America's general warming trend towards European
Other performers Saturday devised alternate, and innovative, methods
of pleasing a crowd with unconventional, even peculiar material.
Avant-pop composer John Maus took his recent critically hailed album, We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves,
to the Tobacco Warehouse stage for a cathartic mid-afternoon set.
Seeing Maus perform his synth-heavy material - supremely arranged pop
songs steeped in acidic post-modern entendres - with such violent vigor
may have come as a shock to those expecting him to remain entrenched
timidly behind his keyboards. At the very least, his confrontational
stage style opened a few eyes and ears.
So did Four Tet's
outstanding sunset performance, in which avant-garde electronic hero
Kieran Hebden propelled the crowd to dance, dip, and bend with the
neckbracing breaks and changes of his hour-length set. It was obvious
that curiosity, not familiarity, drove people to his show - but that
wasn't an issue. They quickly succumbed to Hebden's braindance, even
prompting an extended, victorious encore. DJ sets from the U.K.'s
Optimo, Ikonika and Koreless gathered eager crowds only a block away;
their venue, an audiovisual space where some truly captivating digital
art installations were on display, was an ideal way to drift into their
abstract but visceral beat-driven realms.
"Visceral" is probably the operative word to describe French electro duo Justice's
emotional impact on people. Much like the Chemical Brothers and the
Prodigy tricked American rock fans in the 1990s into liking electronica
with their brutalist, "Big Beat" version of rave, a new, nervy set of
masculinized dubstep and electro artists, like Deadmau5, Nero, and
Skrillex, is eroding those genre barriers again. But Justice already
beat them to it: their music has always had more in common with soaring
arena rock than even their most recent Eighties-driven incarnation, as
heard on "Civilization,"
admits. On Saturday, the duo's mighty event-closing DJ set reinstated
the fact; arms were aloft, glowsticks were brandished and warrior chants
abounded from the immense crowd as the army of squelching synths made
sounds more dangerous than any guitar has made in a long time. Quite
simply, they rocked.
Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images