I saw Dragonette at the El Rey in Los Angeles a few weeks ago

I saw Dragonette at the El Rey theater in Hollywood a few weeks ago. I inarticulately tried to summarize my feelings about it on Twitter afterwards. I am still at a loss to describe the effect that certain shows have on me. I’ve met people who are such enthusiastic fans of music that I don’t really believe their enthusiasm. But every so often, I go to a show and I feel so fulfilled that I kinda get it.

I’ve been listening to Dragonette for several years now. I’d think they’re the sort of band you wouldn’t peg me to be into but when I listen to Dragonette radio on Pandora, I realize I know every band that plays there. So apparently, even Pandora knows I’m a fan of electro pop.

They opened with “I Get Around” — a song I’d have considered definitive of the band if they hadn’t subsequently released so many other definitive hits. Dragonette are such a wonderful pop band that almost every song is a catchy restatement of their abilities. They blazed right into “Riot” and “Live in this City” from their new album Bodyparts and this was the day of its release. These new songs received the same enthusiastic response that the older ones did. Every song is a great, energetic pop tune and Martina has so much fun singing them that it’s infectious.

And though their sound is electronic, they present it as live as possible. Onstage, they’re a drummer behind an electronic kit, a keyboard-laptop-guitar player, Martina singing and a huge lightshow. The sound is full without the screeching trebles of a rock show and the relentless thumping of a DJ set. Dragonette understands dynamics on record and live. It’s why they write such great songs and how they deliver such great shows.

In stark contrast to my ears was openers The Knox who seemingly turned on a metronomic kick drum and dropped samples over top. They did play some live drums but never altered the dynamics so there was no tension and release. Just a beating until they said goodnight.

(And I suppose if I’m going to knock The Knox, I should say a few words about Frank + Derol, the other openers, who were pretty awesome in their moody electro pop. They don’t get as dancey as Dragonette but they would have made an excellent opener on their own.)

Dragonette are one of those rare bands of whom I think every song is a hit. So I wasn’t disappointed by any choices in their set. I didn’t have Bodyparts before the show and because they played almost the entire album, there were many songs I didn’t recognize but each felt familiar. I bought the album the next morning and have been listening to it constantly. There are already so many songs on it that I think of as perfect Dragonette songs that I don’t even think of it as a “new” album. It’s just an album of Dragonette songs that I didn’t have before. I love that experience.

I was pushed close to the stage at the El Rey. The crowd was tight but not crushingly so. And besides the boyfriend/girlfriend couple in front of me who were just sort of swaying, everyone was bouncing, jumping, dancing, and singing along through the whole show. Dragonette even played “Fire in Your New Shoes” and “Hello” — their singles with Kaskade and Martin Solveig — giving the crowd exactly what we wanted.

So I bounced and sang along. I left sweaty and happy. Grateful for the opportunity to see a band I love and possessed of a feeling of freedom. And that’s what’s so difficult to describe in a really great show: that liberation. It doesn’t have to be loud or physical. It doesn’t have to be danceable or singable. But sometimes there’s a quality to a show that just makes me feel free. If I felt that after every show, it wouldn’t have any meaning. So I’m glad it’s only a once-in-a-while emotion.

All my photos from the show are on my Flickr.