We Love Music: Miami Horror @ U Street Music Hall, 3/26/11

courtesy of Miami Horror.

Guest reviewer Alexia Kauffman of The Torches was at the show for We Love DC.

Melbourne’s electro-disco-pop outfit Miami Horror rocked out to a packed U Street Music Hall Saturday night.

I first heard Miami Horror last summer and was fortunate enough to catch their first DC show at U Street Music Hall last year. For that show the hall was probably only 1/3 full, but the audience was super enthusiastic and the band clearly had fun. I bought their album “Illumination” at that show and I couldn’t stop listening to it for the rest of the year. It is definitely one of my favorite albums of 2010. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Plant, the group’s founder, last week, and you can check that out here. Now on with the show.

Opening act Painted Face, a female duo from DC, played synthy electro to a somewhat sparse but gathering crowd. Unfortunately they were less than impressive. To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe it was an off night for them. The keyboard/pre-programmed tracks were bouncy enough but the vocals were uninteresting and sounded flat.

By the time Miami Horror took the stage the crowd had at least quadrupled in size and the packed floor was pulsating with excitement and cheers. Born as a solo act of DJ/Producer Ben Plant, Miami Horror has grown to be a full band. On Saturday Plant played bass/keys, joining him onstage were Josh Moriarty on vocals/guitar, Daniel Whitechurch on keys/percussion, and Aaron Shanahan on drums. They treated the audience to most of the songs on their 2010 release, “Illumination”. and threw a few surprises in as well.

The set started slowly with an instrumental, spacey psychedelic jam but by the third song, ‘Moon Theory’, it was on a steady, grooving crescendo. Next came a real treat, the disco-drenched ‘Make You Move’, off of their first EP, “Bravado”; which also appears in sexy remix form on the bonus disc of “Illumination”. The energy steadily built for the rest of the set; with highlights including the dreamy “Echoplex” and their latest single “Summersun”.

Singer/guitarist Moriarty proved to be a supremely charismatic and talented front-man; shredding on the guitar, delivering spot-on vocals, and hamming it up a bit with goofy facial expressions and dance moves (not to mention his polyester printed dress-shirt/tan blazer & mustache looked like they could have fit right in on Three’s Company. Bonus!).

My only complaint about the set was that the vocals were often murky/muddy. At first I thought my position (close and to the right of the stage) was to blame, maybe I wasn’t in the optimal location for the speakers, so I moved towards the middle of the back of the room, but the sound didn’t improve at all for me, so I moved back up. This fluke was no fault of the band – it would seem either the sound system or sound person was to blame here. Fortunately, it didn’t hinder the overall awesome sound of the rest of the band enough to bother me too much. They were technically on-point the whole night – it seemed that their past year of almost non-stop touring around the world has helped them solidify as a band.

The group finished their high-energy set as sweaty as the crowd, with two of their strongest singles. The epic, New Order-infused, ‘Sometimes’ had the crowd jumping and “Holidays” had everyone singing along. The band was sweet and humble, smiling genuinely and thanking the audience repeatedly for coming and being such a good crowd. Relentless cheers brought the quartet out for an encore, a surprising, fun cover of Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’.

If you get a chance to see Miami Horror, jump on it! They can’t help but become huge – pop-stardom is imminent!

Alexia Kauffman

Alexia was born and raised in Arlington, VA. She has been a cellist since age four, and a lover of rock & roll soon after. The first tape she owned was “Make It Big” by Wham, and the first tape she bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and she still loves both. She was a member of local synth-rock outfit Soft Complex for several years, and has recorded with bands including Engine Down and Two if By Sea. By day she works for a non-profit distributing royalties to musicians and labels. She currently plays cello, lap-steel guitar and tambourine in the DC post-folk/Americana band The Torches.

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