October 16, 2007

Matt & Kim Coming to Cornell Tonight

Print More

The CMJ Music Marathon starts tomorrow. Five days, longer than ever before, of record industry types trying to find that “hot” band. Coincidentally, Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim, who made something of a splash at CMJ last year, will be at our very own Risley Hall tomorrow. They’ve moved up to the big time now, I guess.
Formed in 2004, Matt and Kim have been charting the sort of route the folks at CMJ or your average record label might hope to latch on to. Matt plays the drums and Kim plays the keyboard. They started together playing in friends’ apartments. A simple homemade video, complete with some large prosthetic limbs and abundant fake blood, started making the rounds on YouTube, kick-starting a swirl of “buzz” and moving their shows from living rooms and kitchens to Lollapalooza and SirenFest in the span of a few short months. That’s some pretty fast action.
Matt and Kim are just one example of remarkable speed with which bands can increase in popularity. A good performance at CMJ could find any of the thousand bands performing this weekend with unimagined (or, possibly, imagined) success — record deals, powerful agents, what have you. That’s a sticky predicament. It’s also a lot of pressure. On the one hand, events and “star-making” opportunities like CMJ offer up-and-comers the chance to get themselves seen and heard. And that’s a pretty good thing. But this comes with intense scrutiny and incredible pressure. That’s the nature of commerce, I suppose.
But to traverse this tightrope between opportunity and pressure must be a difficult thing. And Matt and Kim may have hit on the prefect way to walk it. They are renowned for the unbridled enthusiasm they bring to their music in general and their live shows in particular. Neither one can stop smiling. This sounds a little cheesy, maybe, but it’s pretty difficult not to feel happy when that kind of abundant joy is brought to a performance.
This being a “Show Preview,” you might ask: “What do Matt and Kim sound like?” That’s a fair question. Matt plays a keyboard and Kim plays the drum. She has pretty muscular arms. There’s a lot of dancy synth music around these days, and Matt and Kim don’t differ all that much from most of it, structurally. There’s a lot of simple verse-chorus-verse structures. Most songs follow a similar formula of Kim stomping the drum while Matt plays some simple bassline with one hand and some catchy melody with the other all while squawking away in his yelping voice.
What distinguishes Matt and Kim is their attitudes. This is no gloomy post-punk synth band. There is joy in every song. You can tell they’re pretty happy to be playing music, and this comes across in their live show.
Opening for Matt and Kim will be Titus Andronicus, another band trying navigate that puzzling “buzz”-ridden path. After an extensive tour this summer and some hyping on that other music kingmaker, Pitchfork, the folks in Titus Andronicus may soon be in the same position as Matt and Kim. Musically, they are, of course, a bit different. Happy yes, but more drunkenly and aggressively so.
Both bands, however, have incredible enthusiasm and that is a very nice thing to see and be reassured of. It is easy to see how pressure-cookers and fan-machines like Pitchfork and CMJ (for all the good and opportunities and exposure they provide) could drive a person crazy with the intense scrutiny which accompanies them. It’s good to see that that happiness in just going out and wailing and banging still exists in abundance. Matt and Kim and Titus Andronicus are hardly the only examples, though they are, perhaps, better ones.
At Risley Hall tomorrow then, is the opportunity to see a few bands that are eager and fervent and unreservedly giddy to be doing what they’re doing. That’s a wonderful thing. So think of it as not an anti-CMJ, but, maybe a worry-free-happy-time-CMJ?