SOFI TUKKER keep Fonda Theatre dancing at second sold-out gig

Just a month after dropping their debut album Treehouse, New York-based jungle pop duo SOFI TUKKER took the stage Thursday for the second of two sold-out nights at the Fonda Theatre.

They are the latest in a string of duos to redefine pop music by bringing in elements not often associated with electronic music. Sylvan Esso is doing it with the sentimentality of folk, Marian Hill is doing it with the sex of jazz, and SOFI TUKKER is doing it with the pizazz of world music.

I also love the swagger of SOFI TUKKER. Do they come out and go right into one of their more recognizable hits? Fuck no, they jump into the highly-caffeinated “Energia” that sees lead vocalist and guitarist Sophie Hawley-Weld singing in Portuguese, which is a staple of many songs from their catalog.

The duo then pulled out the big guns on their song “Awoo”, the studio recording of which Betta Lemme sings on. Onto the stage emerged Maggie Rogers, recreating a moment that I saw unfold at Firefly Festival last year (which also doubled as Rogers’ first festival appearance ever). Rogers helped sing and do the accompanying dance to the tune.

Multi-instrumentalist and fellow vocalist Tucker Halpern provided a nice contrast with his deep, almost Michael from Boyz II Men baritone vocals. I’m already thinking of mashing up his vocals on “Batshit Crazy” with the ’90s Right Said Fred one-hit wonder “I’m Too Sexy” (listen to the two back-to-back and tell me I’m wrong).

It’s amazing how there was no lull in this hour-long dance party. The mounted drum pad setup gives a more visual art feel to what they’re doing with all the drum sounds in their set, and Hawley-Weld’s far from being a slouch on the guitar, bending notes in sexy solos during breakdowns.

The band was also celebrating Sophie’s birthday, and Tucker led the crowd in a happy birthday sing-along before a cake appeared courtesy of the band’s friends and crew. What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a victory lap at one of LA’s most reputable venues?

Sophie most impressed me in the encore, taking her vocals to places I didn’t know it could go on “Cry For You”, a cover of the late-oughts dance number by September. It’s a new addition to their live set that they absolutely need to record a Triple J Like a Version or BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge of right NOW. Sophie’s vocal solo at the end was hair raising and goosebump inducing, and she looked like Xena: Warrior Princess hoisting the guitar above her head as she delivered the last few notes.

Catch SOFI TUKKER if you’re headed to Lightning in a Bottle, Life is Beautiful, or Austin City Limits this year! They’ve never disappointed me live and are usually the dance party you need to kick your festival day into gear.

Photos by Stephanie Varela-Rheingold