Electro good time gal Martina Sorbara and her synth-savvy husband Dan Kurtz brought their attitude drenched, dance-pop band Dragonette to Rock & Roll Hotel on Sunday night to keep a party-packed weekend rocking into Monday morning. Joined by beat-maker and human time-piece, drummer Joel Stouffer, the husband and wife team wowed the small but dedicated crowd full of electro fanatics, pretty boys, and dancing queens. Their late-start set covered the deepest cuts from their albums, “Galore” and “Fixin’ to Thrill”, and blew the roof off when they launched into the three excellent new songs from their latest EP, “Mixin’ to Thrill”.
Even before they started, I got the feeling that this was going to be a killer set of dance tunes. Dragonette’s extensive lighting set-up was crammed onto RNR Hotel’s smallish stage. I don’t think I have ever seen that many LED arrays, lights cannons, and strobes set-up at RNR Hotel. With their new song ‘Our Summer (Of Sex)’ stuck in my head, I stared at Dragonette’s dormant set-up imagining the potential of their awesome tunes combined with those lights; I daydreamed about this while patiently waiting through the less than impressive openers Shy Child.* Dragonette is a show I have been looking forward to all summer. “Fixin’ to Thrill” shows Dragonette taking their game to a new level, competing with the likes of Goldfrapp and Robyn. On that album Martina is a vocal-range seductress. She and the band take their strengths even further with their three new songs. Having just seen Robyn knock it out of the park a few weeks ago, I was really excited to finally see what Martina has to offer in person.
Right off the bat, it was obvious that Dragonette have the chops to perform with the big girls. Martina is a charismatic and playful front-woman with a heart-breaker image and a voice that is both sultry and commanding. Her huge smile is infectious and whenever she flashed it, the stage seemed brighter as the light show reflected back at her off the smiles of the entire crowd. Martina was playfully conversational between songs and flirted with the crowd teasing them into a dance frenzy with each new song. The crowd adored her and rightfully so. The more Martina gave them vocally, the more energy the crowd fed back. The show was a microcosm example of a performer feeding off of great positive crowd energy.
Even with the playful and loose nature of their set, Dragonette were super-tight as a band. Dan Kurtz’s synth and electro beats were complimented expertly by Stouffer’s drums. Occasionally Martina would strap on a guitar and join Kurtz who played bass guitar on several tracks. The musicianship seemed effortless as the trio burned through their high-energy pop songs. The set list was not much of a surprise, but I actually think with this kind of show it might have been disappointing if it had been. As I mentioned earlier, both albums were represented well, as was the new EP. What strikes me about Dragonette on their albums is their willingness to explore within their sound-range. For some bands this can seem like floundering for an identity. Dragonette, however, sonically roam with such confidence from song to song that it is a thrill to listen to. They are real craftsmen, building their songs on solid pop foundations that allow for the psuedo-Hip-Hop stylings of “Our Summer” or the straight-up pop princess of “We Rule The World”.
Dragonette offered the visceral dance fun the crowd wanted as well as an interesting aural experience for the more academic fans of dance music. Their casual showmanship allowed for a fun party atmosphere, while their music completely slayed on the dance floor. Their set had the crowd going nuts from beginning to end. Much like Robyn a few weeks back, I saw most of the crowd passionately singing along while they danced; completely mesmerized by Martina’s smile and voice, and propelled by the Stouffer and Kurtz rhythm machine.
I know I’ve been making a lot of hay about the Summer of 2010 being an epic showdown between dance-pop divas. But that has mostly been for fun. The truth is that with acts large and small, this Summer has seen some incredibly fun and talented dance-pop groups come through town. Each one of them has offered up their very best show, leaving every crowd I have been a part of glowing with satisfaction; Dragonette included.
* I’m sorry Shy Child, but if I hear one more The Rapture rip-off act I am going to loose my mind. Cow Bell?! The comparisons were already embarrassing but then you took to mimicking their Cow Bell?! Seriously?