I knew last night was off to a good start when my Uber driver told me that he used to hang out with Bradley Nowell in the 90s. “You know, before all the shit hit the fan, and the scene was overrun by tweakers.”
I was worried I was arriving late, right at the scheduled set time, but getting out of the Uber, the first thing I noticed was the insanely long line of revelers outside The Roxy still waiting to get in. Many looked copy/pasted from Coachella – most still with the telltale undereye bags from last weekend’s party marathon, but part of what I love about LA’s music scene is the true eclectic range of people who come to shows, and this one was no exception. From the crowds of scantily clad young women, to the older, grizzled-looking dudes who just seem to lurk in Hollywood, to pairs of young, handsome guys on dates, it certainly showed that there was no one type of Little Dragon fan, and this diverse and interesting crowd was reflected in their set.
Opening the set with the sweetly synthy “Celebrate,” Yukimi Nagano warbled and shimmied her way onstage wrapped in a sheer, diaphanous piece of neon pink mesh. The crowd, already deep into their 4/20 celebrating, let out a sweeping “whoop” and swayed.
Originally hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, Little Dragon is clearly influenced by interesting mix of American R&B slow jams and European club kid beats. When hearing songs like “High,” it’s hard not to imagine Nagano listening to early Janet Jackson in her childhood bedroom but “Strobe Light” is undeniably clubby, which makes sense when you think about how many super popular EDM artists grew up in Sweden.
Intermittent clouds of smoke drifted through pockets in the crowd, and the stage lights bounced languidly off the disco ball that hangs from The Roxy’s ceiling. Just when it felt like the energy was beginning to wane, the sexy, syncopated beat of “Pretty Girls” kicked in, followed by Nagano’s a-tonal, “cool girl” vocals. The crowd went nuts.
It’s easy to see that Nagano and bandmates Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrik Källgren Wallin (bass) and Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards) have been playing music together since high school. Nagano, now 35, has a deep confidence in her music, that shines through some of the weirder and less obviously listenable songs in the set and turns something that could be labeled as “quirky” into real entertainment. Even as a casual listener, I could absolutely understand why so many at the show had their eyes locked on her slow gyrations. There is real talent and a lot of experience behind the stylistic choices. Overall, a great show. Catch them this weekend at Coachella Weekend 2 if you’re out there.
Words and photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold