Grouplove @ The Fillmore with Muna and Dilly Dally.
Text and images by Daniel Mrazik.
If you showed up for the scheduled show time at 8pm, you would have missed most of the first opener, Dilly Dally (and possibly served as an example of the band’s name). But if you were there early and closed your eyes, you might have thought you were listening to the children of the Pixies and Sonic Youth, with the vocals of a spliced Black Francis and Kim Deal. Hidden among the amplifiers’ screeches rested subtle melodies that seemed to sneak into the songs. Not expecting such a din at a Grouplove concert, Dilly Dally were not only a welcome surprise in the lineup, but a pleasant surprise in musical style and delivery as they played songs off last year’s album Sore.
Muna hopped on stage next, the first Philly show for the LA band. For their first song, guitarist Naomi McPherson took the center mic, only to have Katie Gavin resume her lead vocal position for the rest of the set as lead guitarist Josette Maskin strummed all the while. For the remainder, Gavin grooved around the stage through their hit “Winterbreak,” “I Know A Place,” an ode to finding a safe place without fear, and a trove of other tunes that faintly echoed each other, but held their own.
One couldn’t help but feel the aesthetic effect of entwined flowers dangling from each mic stand as a sort of glimmer amidst their signature dark pop sound. On the periphery of that darkness also hovered traces of 80s vibes, which were previewed in their The Loudspeaker EP but will be debuted in full-length on their first album About U, slated to drop in February.
Returning to pack up their equipment after the final song, Muna was treated to an encore of cheers from the crowd, praising the performance and growing in excitement for the main act.
From their name and feel-good aura, you wouldn’t believe that Grouplove’s album titles should be taken seriously, at least their first two – Never Trust A Happy Song and Spreading Rumors. However, after watching their headlining performance unfold, you might deem Big Mess, their most recent release, an appropriate name. It was all a mess in the absolute best way possible – a mess of sound, a mess of color, a mess of movement, a mess of fun. They unabashedly bounced around the stage making that mess their home.
The real treat was coming to the concert expecting some indie rock with a little pop but finding yourself in an amorphous blob of those accented by dashes of punk, dance, hardcore (Hannah Hooper’s vehement screams and the hints of a mosh pit next to me the entire show), their trippy “Beans On Pizza,” and even rap.
After the two openers, where each had relatively consistent sounds, Grouplove kept the entire set feeling fresh even while playing their sure crowd-pleasers of “Itchin’ On A Photograph,” “Tongue Tied” and “Welcome To Your Life.”
Some Easter eggs included a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” during which the crowd rushed forward as Hooper and vocalist, guitarist Christian Zucconi surfed the outstretched hands, and a shout-out to a drug-fueled, Californian existence in the form of the title track of Netflix’s Bojack Horseman.
To complete the evening, the group stood in front of a flood of white lights as Zucconi reflected, “I am a man, man, man, man, up, up in the air.”
The lightscape remained the same through the tongue-twister line: “And I see black, black, green, and brown, brown, brown, brown and blue, yellow, violets, red.”
In fact, the white backdrop stayed solid until the last fading lines of the bridge settled into silence. After a few hanging seconds, the instruments, the voices, and in an eponymous tribute, “Colours” blared forth in a final mess, a mess that felt just fine.