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Concert Review: Alt-J at Meadow Brook Music Festival

As marketers try to end summer earlier each year (I’m looking at you Pumpkin Spice Lattes!), I’ve desperately clung to the last bits of it refusing to let them win. Even though I’m a huge fan of the fall, there’s something freeing about summers in Michigan that keep me holding on for dear life. Mostly, it’s because we tend to be more optimistic and live in the moment, knowing the pleasures of negative degree weather and seasonal depression are just around the corner. As bittersweet as it was for me to bid farewell to the summer solstice yesterday, I was pretty pumped to be doing it at Meadowbrook with my good friends, ∆ (aka Alt J).

“Good friends” might be a stretch since they don’t know I exist. I wouldn’t even call myself a die hard fan, but I’ve spent a lot of time with their music and have come to enjoy and respect it. Since this was my first time seeing them live, I was hoping their music would translate into an out of body, soul changing experience. I may have set my expectations too high, as the sound didn’t translate as well live as I hoped. I’m not sure if it was because the crowd was lackluster or if there was a depth to both lead singer Joe Newman’s voice and the overall sound that was missing. Either way, what really made this show memorable was the incredible light show.

The amount of movable LED screens and lights on the stage would give any Pink Floyd laser show a run for it’s money. The lights paired with their “Folktronica” musical style kept the crowd excited and engaged throughout the show. Good thing since the band seemed to be protesting the idea of “movement.”

The pulsating bright red and orange lights during “Bloodflood” and “Matilda” led to moments of pure drama, while simple single white lights poured down on each member of the band creating a somber moving display that matched perfectly with their “Interlude I (Ripe & Ruin)” performance. During “Dissolve Me,” the emerald lights were so intense I thought I was trapped in the Wizard of Oz and a gaggle of goth munchkins were going to rush the crowd.

Alt-J wisely ended the show with perhaps their biggest hit “Breezeblocks,” and for the first time all night, the crowd showed a pulse. It felt like the finale of a Fourth of July fireworks display and the crowd was finally in unison enjoying the moment together. It was the perfect end to the show leaving everyone on the musical high all concert goers need to feed their addictions.

As sad as I am for summer’s departure, I wouldn’t complain if the end of summer Alt-J performance became a tradition.

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