House of Blues. Thursday, November 4, 2010. It had rained for forty days and forty nights’ Or at least it seemed that way until Matt & Kim came to town. Each of the three concerts I’ve been to in the past month has been prefaced by a day-long onslaught of rain. Seriously. While it’s been terrible trekking out to Boston in the cold, Matt & Kim made every inconvenience worth it.
When I picked up my ticket and photo pass at the box office, I didn’t consider myself a Matt & Kim fan. But two songs in, I knew I wanted to be one. There’s something so electrifying about these two that you remember why you love going to shows to begin with. The band’s drummer, Kim Schifino, is like a sparkly preschooler in a sailor’s body (the latter description because of her tattooed biceps and her delightfully foul mouth) while keyboardist Matt Johnson is like a really bad ass camp counselor who may have been a tree climbing mule in a past life (animal reincarnations to be explained later).
I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m getting tired of the independent artists that take themselves too seriously. You know, the bands that throw a bouncy guitar riff to the catchy syncopation of clapping hands and call it a day. The bands who sport neck beards and flannel and don’t smile in pictures. Matt & Kim put them to shame. At last week’s House of Blues show, they just bust out onto the stage and started climbing on things. They were just as crazy about their fans as their fans were for them.
For one thing, Kim never stopped smiling throughout the entire set. Seriously, if this girl ever stops smiling at all, the world may very well be over. There are only a few chick drummers out there and Kim blows them out of the water on charisma alone. The White Stripes and Donnas be damned. Kim puts so much life into her drumming that the first word that seems adequate is ‘zest.’ She’s like a crouton in a wilting salad of music and we all just want to eat her up. Cheesy? Yes, she’s that kind of crouton too.
Matt is just as delightful. While I haven’t always been in love with his voice, he’s just so charming that it doesn’t matter. ‘We’re doing this new drinking game.’ He said in between songs. ‘Every time I touch my f**king bangs everyone takes a shot. I’ve got the fever. The Bieber fever.’ In addition to his cheerful rapport with the audience, Matt kept things fun by sharing anecdotes about Kim and his brother, Fletcher, who had played an opening act with his band Fletcher C. Johnson. There was never a dull moment when Matt was on the mike. And when he wasn’t, he was tearing up the keyboard while jumping up and down, kicking his legs in the air like a braying mule.
Many two-person acts (Sleigh Bells, The White Stripes, Beach House, etc) seem to have one person serve as the forerunner of the band while the other is left as an afterthought. But Matt & Kim are truly a duo. At the show, they played off each other so well that neither of them ever out shined the other. On stage, their banter made it clear that their best energy is created together (‘Do you like this awkward conversation we’ve got going on?’ Kim asked to the crowd. ‘Kim, there’s like a lot of people in front of us’ said Matt on the side).
Their daredevil approach to performing consistently raised the energy level. “Tonight is about breaking some f**king cymbals!’ Kim said after a particular intense marathon of drumming.’At one point in the show, Matt ran behind the light display on stage and proceeded to climb it before balancing his torso on a stack of precariously stacked fixtures. Later, Kim brought new meaning to the word ‘crowd surf’ when she literally walked on her fans’ upheld palms and danced.
The duo never stopped interacting with the audience, drawing from their personal experiences growing up in the northeast (Kim is from Rhode Island and Matt is from Vermont) to their undying love for Boston (‘Boston, we go hard!’ Matt kept on yelling). And despite their obvious love for Boston, I have a feeling that they could connect with any kind of crowd.
As for the music, the two mostly played songs of their first two albums, “Matt and Kim” (2006) and “Grand” (2009). Despite the fact that the band’s third album, “Sidewalks” dropped three days before the show, they only played a couple new songs, including ‘Silver Tiles‘ and ‘Good for Great.’ Personally, I was hoping for ‘Cameras.’ Instead, Matt and Kim pleased old fans, rocking out with longtime favorites like “Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare“‘and ‘Yea Yeah.’ The two also played covers of feel good dance hits to transition between songs. ‘Jump On It‘ between ‘Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare’ and ‘5k‘ was particularly memorable.
While there was no encore, the group didn’t disappoint. After a dizzying round of fan favorites, the duo closed with the predictably popular ‘Daylight‘ before rushing out into the crowd, shaking hands and high-fiving for ten minutes straight.
When it’s so easy to illegally download song on the internet, Matt & Kim remind us of why music is best done legal and live. After seeing them morph a rainy Thursday into the best party of my semester, I couldn’t help but fall in love. Go see them live. And if you already have, you know you need to again.
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