Geographer/ON AN ON | 01.22.13

geographer 75A lo-fi wash of vaguely new wave-inflected dance rock, ON AN ON brings to mind M83 at their most emotive.

The Firebird, St. Louis

The soul-crushing normalcy of the American Midwest has allowed it stand virtually unopposed as the Western hemisphere’s leading exporter of downtempo sad-rock. This truism became abundantly clear at Geographer’s show at The Firebird, a veritable cabaret of emotive cooing and listless swaying. Thanks to the band’s surprisingly energetic fan-base, it was a massive night punctuated with a few bursts of ecstatic, tribal dancing that this reviewer may or may not have been the cause of.

Halfway through my second game of Rolling Stones Pinball, the first opening act of the night, The Sun and the Sea, took to the stage. That these fresh-faced St. Louisians really felt it, man, was certainly not up for debate. An electro-emo five piece, their tortured ballads of 20-something sentimentality were so earnest that Ben Gibbard should be expecting a royalty check. It’s always a pleasure to see a talented, confident local band who can hold an audience, and if the orgy of swaying that erupted for their final song is any evidence, their set was a resounding success (you’re welcome, guys).

The surprise highlight of the evening, however, came from the second act, ON AN ON. Structured around the airy vocals and fearsome pompadour of lead singer Nate Eisland, ON AN ON formed from the ashes of Eisland’s previous group, the gloomy indie five-piece Scattered Trees.

For their supporting tour with Geographer, ON AN ON performed the bulk of their upcoming album, Give In, which debuts on Jan. 29 through Roll Call Records (they were sure stock their merch table with the obligatory vinyl copies of it, however). A lo-fi wash of vaguely new wave-inflected dance rock, the album brings to mind M83 at their most emotive.

Fortunately, the hazy theatrics of Give In translated wholly to The Firebird’s cramped acoustics. Although the group understandably lacks the notoriety for a headlining tour at this stage in their career, there was no doubt that Eisland and Co., all veterans from Scattered Trees, have the charisma to do so.

After an enticingly moody cover of Hot Chip’s electropop classic “And I Was a Boy from School,” the group closed their set with lead single “Ghosts,” a wistful, longing cut that felt climatic enough to make much of the audience nearly forget that the headliner hadn’t even performed yet.

Though ON AN ON’s performance could easily have merited a show of its own, the equally contemplative indie-electro of Geographer was far from overshadowed. The three-member group is centered around the charms of the impeccably coiffed Mike Deni (after Eisland, his was not the only pompadour of the evening, but it was arguably the best).

Much like Toro y Moi and Twin Shadow, Geographer offers a terminally chill, R&B-influenced take on indie pop, made all the better with Deni’s extroverted antics accompanying it. As he cut a swathe through the crowd for “Lover’s Game,” Deni made for an excellent showman, boasting a swagger that his contemporaries frequently lack (anyone who’s seen Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick cowering behind a MacBook in concert can attest to that).

It’s rare for a headlining act and its openers to compliment each other so perfectly, but the pensive chemistry between earnest locals The Sun and the Sea, confident up-and-comers ON AN ON, and self-assured indie-electro mavens Geographer met this very ideal. We felt it, man. We felt it. | David Von Nordheim

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