One of the first shows I really wanted to catch at SXSW was the iamsound party which featured jj, Sleigh Bells & Salem playing back to back to back. It was easily the worst run show (that I attended) of the entire festival. I think the fault fell mostly on the sound guys who required 45 minutes to set up every single act which for jj is a simple CD PLAYER, MIC AND GUITAR. They were two hours behind schedule, more on that later…
jj, who have mostly been anonymous until now, takes the stage; a duo Joakim Benon (he) and Elin Kastlander (she). She looks very, very young. I would have guessed 18. The Joakim takes stage next to a laptop, hits play and continues to stand on stage for the entire set –never interacting with another piece of equipment– as Elin sings over the cd. I’m not sure if it sounds as whacky as it was to experience. My expectations were high as jj have been one of the bands I’ve listened to, and recommended, most over the last year. Yes it was karaoke but on top of that it felt like watching a producer who wants the spotlight.
The songs themselves sounded great, their music is great, but Elin seemed so incredibly uncomfortable she hardly moved. She never spoke to the audience. Occasionally, during an instrumental break, Joakim would talk over and whisper something in her ear to which she’d smile and he’d go back to his post. As the set went on he started looking more and more odd. Like he was unable to concentrate or see straight. It like he was on ecstasy but I thought maybe I was just making that connection due to their song of the same name. I kind of shrugged it off.
I had the unfortunate luck to catch their set the next night as I was at Mohawk to see The xx. Again, they take the stage, this time she at least had a guitar. But this was hands down the most uncomfortable performance I have ever witnessed. This night Joakim hits play on the laptop, whispers something in Elin’s ear then hops off the side of the stage and puts his head between his legs, hands on head, for the entire set. My previous thought about the ecstasy was definitely confirmed. He was so high he couldn’t even manage to stand on stage next to his band-mate. The band’s manager spent the set trying to shield the photogs from getting shots of all this. Once Elin finished up she came off stage and tapped him on the shoulder, they whispered back and forth while she assured him he didn’t need to apologize. Eventually a stage hand says “hey guys, who wants to go on a little walk?!” Elin grabs him and they go.
The xx have a potential nightmare on their hands taking this band on tour with them. No energy, nothing even remotely interesting to watch. Whoever told this band that they should go on tour made a huge mistake. There is no performance, not one person will have seen that show and left with something positive to say. Truly a wreck.
I recorded a couple of tracks from the first night:
Photo via Stereogum