Holly Herndon and St. Vincent

Holly Herndon/St. Vincent

By Sophia Abbey

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Photo Credit Ben Stas of BDC Wire

 

Holly Herndon walks onto the stage with no fanfare, just quietly and unsuspecting like a little mouse. She bows to the audience and quietly sets up her laptop, but no one’s prepared for what comes next. Her set starts slowly, building quietly upon itself little by little. My friend whispers to me that she seems like “a less cracked out version of Grimes, mixed with a little Purity Ring.” It’s true, her persona is very peaceful and polite, her mannerisms small and meditative. Ambient, foreign noises begin to billow from the speakers, first emerging on the left, then moving to the right, an inescapable stereo sound.

The noise does not yet reach the rhythm of the bodies and no one seems inclined to dance, but they are certainly captivated. Holly Herndon’s music serves to spark a conversation among the audience more than anything else. The crowd is still, unmoving, but there is a flurry of discussion. You can hear groups of people trying to discern what sort of objects or instruments would even make these inhuman noises. I hear a girl say that when she closes her eyes every sound seems so tangible. A conversation sparks between my friends about electronic musicians being the graffiti artists of the music world. The genre tends to lean towards the underground, and artists usually have no formal training.

Holly Herndon creates a sound most similar to a horror movie soundtrack, using her own breathing as an instrument. There are screeches and moans coming from every direction, and at one point it sounds as if there are branches scraping against a window. Holly Herndon transcends the barriers of a normal musical concert and makes it something more like performance art.stvincent-11.jpg

Photo Credit Ben Stas of BDC Wire

 

It turns out this is a very fitting opener for a St. Vincent concert, as she takes the stage with incredible theatrics. Her demeanor will switch from a very calm, surreal woman to insanely robotic. Her dance moves are very jittery and robotic, she shuffles around the stage in a square. Often her dance moves coincide with those of her bandmates. Every so often she smiles to herself, as though she’s in her own head and thinking of a past joke. Her dress is something very structured, white, but with felted pinks and reds on top that makes it look as though she has been cut open and her blood and guts are falling out.

The atmosphere in the crowd is different for her performance, every song is instantly danceable, even if it’s one from her more recent album that I haven’t heard before. Her energy is high, and she puts all she has into each song, but knows when and how to reel it in. About half an hour into the set she puts down her guitar and sits on the steps to sing “I Prefer Your Love”. It’s the first slower song we’ve heard, and it comes across as so hauntingly beautiful, maybe because it comes as a break from the chaos earlier.

Every so often she stops playing and just speak to the audience in disjointed, poetic sentences, cute little Annie-isms. When an audience member yelled “I love you” at the stage, she got very serious and quiet, pointed directly at the girl, and said “your friends don’t know everything about you.” Some other Annie-isms:

  • “Guys there was a ghost in the machine.”

  • “We were all born before the 21st century.”

  • “Sometimes we get so mad we laugh.”

  • “Our favorite world in this city is molecular”

  • “Sometimes when you’re riding the T from Allston to Roxbury you look at everybody on the train and think what would everyone look like if they were babies.”

  • “Somewhere along the line your family gave you the nickname peaches. You don’t like it and you wish it would stop”

  • “When you were a child you built a fire with a magnifying glass and you were so proud but then you remembered you were afraid of fire.”

  • “Sometimes you look at your hands and wonder how they can be yours.”

  • “Have you ever walked in your neighborhood without your glasses and thought everyone was from a movie.”

  • “When you look at a suitcase you get very very very very very sad.”

  • “You once told a lie and you got sick the next day and you thought you were being punished but then you remembered you don’t believe in retribution but then you said maybe I will someday so you went to the garage and built a throne out of aluminum foil, empty PBR cans and your mothers laundry and it was perfectly symmetrical.”

  • “You stumble upon soviet bus stops. Indescribably beautiful.”

 

The first half the set did seem stronger than the second, but the experience was just a huge adrenaline rush. I came away feeling as if I was best friends with Annie. The St. Vincent set came to a total of 2 hours, and a transcendental experience. I waited outside the stage doors for Annie to come out for 20 minutes, but as Yahoo! Weather so accurately put it, it “feels like -2°” and I could not wait any longer.

 

This concert? Worth it.

 

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