May 30, 2014 / 2:33 pm

The 1975 feat. Sir Sly and Bad Suns @ Marathon Music Works

Taking place in historic Nashville, TN (a.k.a. “music city”), it only follows that the 1975 concert would be taking place in Marathon Music Works; a beautifully restored automobile factory, all wooden beams and brick with faded paint. It’s a unique environment for a show and effective as well. The set-up was simple: the once packed factory floor emptied of equipment easily fits a massive crowd. Finally, someone had the brilliant idea of installing stylistic and practical industrial fans in the ceiling, eliminating the heat of cramming so many bodies together. Although the venue staff were a little brusque and the rules for entry a little confusing (be sure to have ID, no bags, no cameras), the venue itself was ideal for a show and the unique building added character to the performance.

It didn’t hurt that the show started thirty minutes early, cutting down that awkward hour between doors and show time. First up was Sir Sly. The best parts of the set happened when the instrumentation dropped off leaving the vocals to stand alone. They played a short set filled with songs that seemed to center on themes of mental instability and the hunched, Frankenstein-like lurching of the singer across the stage. The highlight was the final song, “Gold.” Next up was Bad Suns, an extremely young-looking outfit from California who were previously featured as a free single of the week on iTunes with their song, “Cardiac Arrest.” While the band’s EP was very promising, the performance didn’t quite live up to the hype. The singer seemed a bit distracted by the conscious effort of his performance, and there was a distinct incongruity between the recorded EP and live effort, possibly due to the inexperience of the group or the pressure of playing immediately before the 1975, a task I wouldn’t wish on any act. Bad Suns’ first full-length album will be out June 24th, but at this point in their career, I wouldn’t attend a headlining show just yet.

A thick cloud of fog set off the iconic glowing rectangle that is now the recognizable insignia of the 1975. This was accompanied by a repeating ambient noise that constantly increased in volume for a painfully long period before the members finally strode to their places, sans singer Matt Healy. After a few moments of screaming, Healy swaggered onto the stage, casually swinging a bottle of Nashville brewed wine in one hand. From the second Healy grabbed the mic to the moment the glowing rectangle symbolically flickered out, the band and crew put on the most professional presentation of musical creativity I have seen to date, much in line with the streamline aesthetic of the 1975.

Most of this was due to the enigma that is Matt Healy. Watching him perform made me realize I had never before seen a true rock star until that show. Healy exudes confidence and charisma, dancing along to his own music with fluid movements, continuously taking swigs from his bottle and occasionally lighting a cigarette. His performance was so casual; there was no fronting or acting, but an admirable and genuine display of personality. One had to wonder at his level of intoxication however as at some points Healy seemed to be right at the edge of being in control, but that thought was quickly abandoned as he flawlessly executed nearly every song off the band’s first full-length album and then some. By the end it would seem an appearance of intoxication might have simply been a natural lack of inhibition and performance talent of Healy…or it’s the drugs and liquor, but really, who cares? He seems to have been made for this.

Healy made one comment in particular that I think deserves a nod of recognition. Allow me to pull out my soapbox for a second. When I took a quick glance back to survey the crowd, I could not believe how many people were watching the whole set through their phones. Not to sound like somebody’s grandma, but seriously almost half of the audience had their phones in front of their faces. And not just for a quick Snapchat for an unlucky, left-behind friend, but for entire numbers. Lesson of the day: actually experience shows when you go to them. Live it. Love it. I understand we have some amazing cameras on our phones these days, but nothing will ever beat seeing it with your own two eyes. Trust me; some poor sucker will always be there to tape it, and you can always go back and look up his or her low-quality, shaky, below-amateur videography later. As Healy so eloquently put it after asking the iPhone-shielded crowd if they had FaceTime, “What’d you buy a fucking ticket for then?”

The band completed a three song encore before Healy clapped for the audience, bowed, and affectionately blew kisses to the crowd, then jogged offstage leaving the satisfied fans to flow over to the wide merch selection (a tour hoodie? Genius.). Moral of the story: if the 1975 is on your radar, try and make it to a show. Despite having to wait through two lackluster openers, the main event is more than worth it. Get there early, because you’re going to want to be as close to Healy’s effortlessly magnetic performance as possible. The 1975 have rumored plans to release a new album in 2015, but getting to them before they’re filling arenas will get you a show to remember.