I’ve always found it hard to really connect to the notion of a “sideshow.” To me, the word sideshow has negative connotations. It sounds like an afterthought. Something that the artists are contractually obliged to do, when they don’t really want the extra workload.
Many sideshows that I have attended in the past have resulted in dispirited artists dragging themselves in front of half-full venues and shooting off remarks such as “Who here will we see at *insert festival name* on the weekend?”
“We love playing that festival! That festival is why we are here”….not for a midweek show that they do because of the extra $$.
It came as a relief therefore to witness LA duo MS MR take time out of their Groovin’ The Moo tour schedule to give a performance of both excitement and genuine enthusiasm to a packed Metro Theatre on Thursday night. Given that the band had visited our shores just last year for Splendour In The Grass, I was initially surprised to see the band billed on not just the Groovin’ lineup, but also on a string of headline shows in all capital cities around the country (bar Adelaide, as is the trend nowadays). However, upon viewing the band’s performance, it came as no surprise to me why the alt pop masters are able to fill venues time and time again.
The fresh-faced GRRL PAL opened the night with a set that was both bouncy and dark, displaying the duos expansive musical awareness. Having landed slots at the Bunbury leg of Groovin’ The Moo and the entire string of Ms Mr support slots, singer Jay LeKat was clearly enjoying the moment, bopping around the stage whilst producing tender and at times haunting vocal layers over the glitchy instrumentation. With an engaging live show, the duo’s introduction to the touring circuit will surely see them continue their rapid ascension.
MS MR arrived onstage 20 minutes late due to technical issues with the screen that flanked their setup. After testing the screen for well over half an hour to no avail, the band opted to go ahead with the show without their visual production, opting to rely on their ability as musicians to win the crowd over.
Opening the set with Reckless, front-woman Lizzy Plapinger wasted no time showing off a dazzling array of dance moves and hair-wips, serving as the nucleus for the infectious energy that spread throughout the venue. Due to the nature of the mid-week grind, it wasn’t until the band dropped Fantasy that the crowd really warmed up, with the opening strains of the hit prompting a mass dance party throughout the venue.
What sets Ms Mr apart from other bands that I have seen performing sideshows was the amount of fun the group were having onstage. The chemistry between Plapinger and her musical counter part Max Hershenow was incredibly strong, with the two bouncing off one another’s cues to encourage the audience to dance to new cuts Tripolar and dance floor anthem How Does It Feel. “If you’ve been to a MS MR show, then you know that this next song is kind of like our group therapy moment” said Hershenow, before the band launched into Think Of You, no doubt providing a live soundtrack to many a broken heart in the room.
Towards the end of the set it became evident how heavily the band relied on their visuals to bring the entire show to life. A string of slower cuts, including Dark Doo Wop and Pieces lacked any real sense of atmosphere, with the stage lights of the Metro dimming down in the closest thing to mood lighting that could be achieved given the circumstances. Despite this handicap, Plapinger committed herself 100% to the performance, leaning back and showing off the power of her vocals to the crowd before beaming and laughing with pure joy at the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Painted brought the main set to a close in a blur of fist pumps and flailing bodies, before the duo returned with their backing band for the inevitable encore, gifting the crowd with Bones before rounding out the evening with their breakthrough track Hurricane.
As the lights came up and the crowd began to leave (legit, I’ve never seen a venue empty so quickly with the eagerness of workers to get to bed), I found myself reflecting upon the importance of mid-week, pre-winter gigs like these. MS MR had successfully won over a fairly subdued crowd, a majority of which were still in their work clothes, and given them a taste of life outside the 9-5 grind. For the 75 minutes that they were onstage, they injected a fat dose of festival flavoured disco into the lives of the punters assembled, doing us a world of good in the process.
Check our interview with Max Hershenow from MS MR here.
IMAGE: The Music