Review & gallery photos by: Taylor Prater
Video courtesy of Artist

When I think of bands that achieved a meteoric rise to success (and a quick one, to boot), alt-J immediately comes to mind. I remember passing by the radio station at my university’s campus, scouring through the free CD stack and finding 2012’s An Awesome Wave, which immediately went into my crappy Chevy Blazer’s 3-disc CD changer (whoa, now).

And yet there I was at South Side Ballroom, October 2015, pushing my way up toward the photo pit just to get access to one of the most popular indie bands of the last 2 years. I mean, strangers were passing off their lyrics as their own in ice cream parlors — does that not mark the ultimate success of a band in this day and age?

My immediate whimpering about the stage lighting disappeared within moments of the set starting — I could easily deal with the darkness if it meant watching the spectacular light show this group was waiting to put on. Among the teasing hints of Every Other Freckle kicking things off, you could feel the anticipation from the crowd as they prepared for that first, beautifully harmonized ahhhh accompanied by lead singer Joe Newman’s sultry “I want to share your mouthful” echoed in pure nothingness.

Let me tell you, the moment that song started was one of the most satisfying things I’ve felt since engorging myself in fried foods at the state fair.

Yes, alt-J is better than fried foods. You can run and tell that, homeboy.

Shivering anticipation aside, the most unique thing about this band by far is the interesting dynamic between their stage presence and their insane popularity. The moment this group stepped on stage you could feel the humility of their roots — they’ve been around for several years and have worked hard to get where they are. But that success hasn’t gotten to their heads; from start to finish, the set felt like one I’d see at any local venue featuring brand new musicians eager to excite the crowd.

alt-J does this a little differently, accentuating the strange and slow and quirky sex appeal of their music with a calm we own this room presence.

And own it they did. I nearly had to be pulled out of the photo pit, shooting photo after photo on my way out after the 3rd song, itching for that 4th to begin and keep me floating in the immersive, prismatic wonderland they created from first pitch.

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