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Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock, 4/1/13

Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock, 4/1/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Sky Ferreira
with How to Dress Well and High Highs

Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday night's show at the Triple Rock featuring How to Dress Well and Sky Ferreira was a tale of what should and should not be done by emerging artists on the cusp of the Next Step, whatever that might be. HTDW's set unfolded in a loose, comfortable almost unplanned fashion, while Ferreira's was clinical and calculated -- ultimately almost sleep-inducing. The night ended with a bitter pill but there was, thankfully, much to feast on beforehand.

See Also:
Slideshow: Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock

How to Dress Well's Thomas Krell had a little help from the outset from a friend he identified only as "Aaron" and his ethereal, haunting voice held the crowd in rapt attention from the outset. The stripped-down, delicate, neo-R&B nature of the songs caused all in attendance to be funeral quiet as the songs progressed, allowing Krell to walk away from the dual-microphone setup on numerous occasions and still be clearly heard as he sang in a falsetto reminiscent of Justin Vernon.

By the time "Running Back" got started, just a few songs into the set, there was a palpable sense of awe that washed over the crowd -- even those back by the bar, where it's usually fairly noisy, were respectfully mute. Between songs, Krell had a few amusing stories to share including one involving doing ecstasy with R&B legend Maxwell and listening to "Talking to You" on repeat for two hours, of which HTDW then offered a fantastic rendition. The stories he told, all humorous and most involving drugs, had a way of breaking the tension that the songs built, most of which are on the heavily introspective side lyrically with music to match the content. It would have been a lot to take in without the small breaks here and there.

Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock, 4/1/13
Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock, 4/1/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

Songs like "Suicide Dream 2" and "Ocean Floor for Everything" built of the course of minutes and begged for a release that never materialized. While it definitely swelled emotions in the crowd, that lack of release or resolution would have been almost too much to bear. Krell found a way to strike a perfect balance, getting his point across while not, almost literally, crushing the crowd to death with it.

He ended the set with a daring, phenomenal acapella cover of Janet Jackson's "I'll Never Fall in Love With You Again," for which he stepped away from his microphones once again and stood at the edge of the stage, the crowd staying mum once more and his own "Set It Right" making for a stunning beginning to the evening. Things got weird very quickly though as Sky Ferreira's set seemed to be a mirror image in negative of Krell's -- which is to say it just never looked quite right no matter how long you stared at it.

Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock, 4/1/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Ferreira has had some buzz around her for a few months now due to some heavy praise from Pitchfork and a few other trendsetting publications, but watching her set on Monday it was hard to envision even the KDWB set giving much notice to her. "Bland" is the easiest word to describe it, as the set passed along as if almost nothing nothing had happened at all.

She began with the by-the-numbers synth-pop infused "Lost" and the angry rocker "Ain't Your Right," which was fairly catchy. However, by the time the ballad "Werewolf" started -- almost exactly at the halfway point of the set, which is usually the "slow things down a little" point in larger arena-type shows -- the set was already on autopilot and was headed for the side of a mountain. "You're Not the One" propped the set up a bit toward the end but other than that, it was just about as interesting as watching someone taking a nap.

 

All of Ferreira's songs hung together in a homely little pile, with a few common elements (chunky, uninventive guitar riffs; stale "woe is me"-type lyrics) but each leaned toward something else as well (a couple toward country, some toward synth-pop, many toward Avril Lavigne), as if she was simply throwing everything she could think of at the wall to see what sticks so she knows which direction to head for the next album. It was both acutely crass and unendingly boring all at once.

Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock, 4/1/13
Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock, 4/1/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

The low point was "Ghost," wherein she referred to a past love as just that, making it seem like all of the songs had been created for a romantic comedy circa 1983. There were no new ideas and the ones that were presented were so used up that the steel belts were showing at the edges.

It was a glorious relief that no encore was even hinted at, because it was not earned on Monday night. By the end (and really about the middle) of her 50-minute set, it seemed almost criminal that How to Dress Well had only been allowed 45 minutes. Seeing a two-hour set from them would have been an absolutely wonderful way to begin this week -- a final dose of frightening, amorphous darkness before the light begins to shine on Minneapolis for good over next few months.

Critic's Bias: I was incredibly impressed with How to Dress Well's recorded work and from what I had heard about his show at the 7th Street Entry in December, suspected I was in for a treat. I was lukewarm about Sky Ferreira on record and she did absolutely nothing to make me want to give it a second listen.

The Crowd: A mixed bag that seemed to include a lot of couples in all the pairings that "couple" implies.

Overheard In The Crowd: My companion for the night on Sky Ferreira's set: "I never thought I might fall asleep at a show before, but there we have it."

Notebook Dump: HTDW took every great R&B song from the '90s, filtered it through an Italian horror film and it somehow became the most intoxicating thing on the planet.

Setlist:

Sky Ferreira and How to Dress Well at Triple Rock, 4/1/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen


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