Anyone who decides to name their band, The Naked and Famous probably isn’t taking themselves too seriously and expecting to become famous unless they really are planning to strip down to their birthday suits and flash unsuspecting civilians. But there was no need for the members of TNAF to succumb to porn or flashing to gain attention within the indie rock scene.
In case you didn’t know TNAF are a post-punk/synth-pop quintet from New Zealand, whose name was inspired by one of their musical influences Tricky. Their name itself is attention grabbing enough and chosen because of a line in one of Tricky’s songs where he repeats that everyone just wants to get naked and famous. Yet it’s their catchy, electric tunes that will make them a memorable fixture in your head. The band originally formed in Auckland’s MAINZ music college when Thom Powers met Alisa Xayalith, and from there everything just fell into place. In 2010, they delivered a strong debut studio album Passive Me Aggressive You that has received several nominations and awards. Their music has been featured on television series like Gossip Girl and the Vampire Diaries, in video games and sampled by other artists. Their huge commercial hit Young Blood was even sampled by the likes of Machine Gun Kelly which created some bad blood between the musicians about copyright infringement via numerous tweets from MGK and TNAF. But the samples could never compare to the real thing, the album is worth listening to if you haven’t heard it yet. The energetic fast paced electric tunes accompanied by insightful lyrics has definitely become a favourite of mine.
So needless to say I was incredibly excited to see their name posted amongst new concert listings at Rotate This. I snatched up my tickets fast before they sold out and waiting in agony for April 5 to arrive so I could witness the awesomeness of TNAF live. I wasn’t disappointed. They opened up with All of this, one of the best tracks on the album and the crowd loved it. Singing along, hands waving in rhythm to the beat, people pressed forward and got lost in the performance. I was amazed by how many people knew the words and I watched transfixed as they sang my favourite part…
As the plans turn into compromise
the promises all turn to lies
the spite builds up
and it can’t get through
Passive me, Aggressive you
I know I nag, I moan I know
but with a plan like this
it’s way too slow
in the time it took to get this here
I could have made this work
but all I had was…
the hope that pieces would take shape
and we could watch them all fall into place…
a complicated sing-along to pull off but I guess when you have devoted fans like these, it can be done. Alisa was flawless, conveying meaning through expressive hand gestures and sidling up to Thom. Head bobbing to Punching in a Dream and swaying to The Sun I was in a perfect state of bliss. Especially when Thom sang a heart wrenching delivery of Girls Like You. The whole set seemed to fly by much too fast although they played every song from the album. Impressive yet I was hoping that they’d interact with the audience more. But I guess they preferred to express themselves through their music and expressive hand gestures and melodic swaying. The light show definitely helped increase the excitement and kept the crowd happy. I even heard they’d be autographing merchandise after the show but after the spectacle of their encore where they closed with Young Blood I was satisfied. Nothing could have made it a better night. I came, I saw, I left on cloud 9.
The release of their 2004 debut LP You’re A Woman I’m a Machine went Gold in Canada and it was this album plus a remixed and B-side album entitled Romance Bloody Romance, that earned them a cult following of those who loved punk rock and also those who just wanted to dance and get crazy. The breakup of DFA in 2006 led to quite a substantial amount of disappointed fans. So it was no surprise the announcement of their reunion caused quite a stir amongst the hipster/indie crowd.
Although Sound Academy is not my favourite choice of venue, it was large enough to contain the anxious, eager and rowdy crowd that filled the place to capacity. Bishop Morocco and The Bad Tits opened up the show, providing the audience with a tiny dose of what we were in for. The Merch table was quite busy with a large assortment of T-shirts with the quintessential, surrealistic logo of the guys and their classic elephant trunks. If you ever wondered why, as I did, that they chose Elephant trunks to establish their image, it’s because “We wanted our band to be like an elephant in your living room,” states Jesse F. Keeler, the bass player and one half of DFA 1979. Their sound can most definitely be likened to a herd of elephants crashing through your home when you turn that volume up.
Their visual aesthetic was just as poignant as their sound. Sebastien showcased his bleached-blonde shaggy haircut that unfortunately obscured his face most of the show, as he head banged non-stop while decked out in white. A stark contrast to Jesse, who struck an intimidating figure as a broad-shouldered giant with long black hair and a beard and clothes to match. Dark and sinister paired with Goodness and light seemed like an accurate portrayal of a band whose dark beats are often accompanied by romantic imagery and longing. DFA are as much evidence as you’ll ever need that Yes! opposites do attract!
For a band that once described themselves as “a punk band with pop aspirations” they have accomplished so much more than they had first thought they were capable of. Their distinctive sound consists of only drums and bass, heavy distortion and manipulation, sexy, visceral beats that create a wall of noise that drowns out even your innermost thoughts. Hard to believe all of this is accomplished by two guys but that is what they do, and they do it incredibly well. The dirty bass lines, and thundering drumbeats combined with Grainger’s drawn out rock howling left me in awe. The crowd was ecstatic and pulsating with energy, everyone was sweating and I had to remove myself from the crowd before I was blinded by an elbow. This was not the kind of crowd that would tolerate any hand held recording or prolonged camera snapping. It was aggressive, savage and reckless, primal yet enthralling. The type of show where you just allow yourself to get swept away and party like it’s your last night on Earth or head home early. No half-assing it allowed!!
Despite feeling intimidated and kind of old, I have to say it was an awesome show and one of the craziest I’ve ever been to. And to think they’re doing it all again tonight. That’s right, not only did DFA reunite, play countless festivals and award their hometown of Toronto with a crazy show, they decided to do it two nights in a row back to back. Unbelievable!
1979 is the year of my birth
1979 is the year of off the wall
1979 is the year of pleasure principle
1979 is the last year of the last cool decade
1979 is scratched into my arm
1979 is scratched into my arm
1979 is scratched into my fucking arm
~ Sebastien Grainger, Death from Above 1979