When you really think about it, there aren’t a ton of electro-pop duos that are able to draw sizable crowds with a production and live show that matches. Phantogram, Sylvan Esso, and Oh Wonder are a few that come to mind, but many others don’t scale their performances to match growing crowds. One thing those bands had in common was they sharpened their skills on the festival circuit. Philly duo Marian Hill seem poised to be the next one to follow in those footsteps.
Kicking off their tour Thursday night in Los Angeles at the Fonda Theatre, the duo proved where their sweet spot is. Their music had multiple couples (and maybe some yet-to-be-serious couples) grinding on each other and making out a few songs into the set. Their sophomore album Unusual drops May 11 via Republic and can basically be your entire bedroom playlist.
Marian Hill singer and songwriter Samantha Gongol has mastered the art of being the lone vocalist in a duo in a similar way to Amelia Meath in Sylvan Esso. They both have that unexpected swagger, and you really have to be in order to sell the heavy-hitting bars that they drop in their songs. “Take me back to your room / I wish you would” Gongol sings on the latest single “Wish You Would” to the whistles and cheers of the crowd.
Jeremy Lloyd is not turning knobs are pressing play on a laptop up there. He’s live producing on a variety of instruments and brings a certain kind of nerdy swag to what he’s doing. Saxophone player Steve Davit also brings some depth to the live show with his bustling solos and he even threw in some dance moves when Lloyd was getting down as Gongol ran off stage for a minute.
In fact, whenever Davit played the saxophone I saw the kind of dancing in that Chappelle’s Show skit where John Mayer plays guitar to get white people dancing. That they are able to put the crowd in a space where they’re letting loose like that is great, especially in Los Angeles where the crowd likes to pretend they are too cool to engage.
I also loved how the lights danced around, often to the tempo of the songs Marian Hill was playing. By the end of the show, the lights were even guiding the grinding in the crowd it seemed.
This show proved to me that this duo is primed and ready to conquer the festival circuit the way I’ve seen Phantogram and Sylvan Esso do in recent years. Walking out the doors of the Fonda Theatre, I heard a lot of people excited about what they just saw. You can’t teach swag, and Marian Hill has it in abundance.
Sir Sly is also an act that I expect will blow up soon. The act is my pick to be a future alt-rock radio juggernaut and I felt like their album from last year Don’t You Worry, Honey was underrated and they’re going to keep kicking out hits. They’re certainly fun to dance around to.
Photos by Tim Aarons