By Setota Hailemariam
I’ll be the first to admit it — I’m not the biggest fan of electropop or EDM in general. I’ve been to electronic shows before and had a good time in the frantic, raving crowd, but from a purely musical standpoint, the genre wasn’t for me.
Then I saw Dragonette at U Street Music Hall. I’d never heard anything from them besides their 2010 smash hit “Hello,” and I was curious to see what else they had in their repertoire and how their bouncy pop stylings would translate to the stage.
I wasn’t disappointed after witnessing their songs’ memorable hooks and their incredible musical talent. I put my reservations aside and started to really enjoy what electronic music had to offer.
“Hey gang!” Gibbz, the opening act, yelled with a smile upon entering the stage, getting the show off to a surprisingly great start.
His sometimes upbeat, occasionally sultry brand of pop was marked by looped keyboard instrumentals, smooth falsettos and sporadic electric guitar licks that made for some truly good music. My personal favorite was “Stay For A While,” a soulful number that I made a note of to listen to after the show.
Dragonette took the stage shortly after.
Martina Sorbara stood at her position behind the center mic wearing a glittering crystal-covered bomber jacket that acted as a sort of disco ball, reflecting all the lights on stage. She was joined by Dan Kurtz and Joel Stouffer, who made their way to the keyboard and drum set, respectively.
They immediately launched into a performance of “Royal Blues,” the title track from their most recent album. Sorbara’s breathy vocals were sweet, yet had a strength to them that intrigued me, and I looked forward to hearing more.
They next launched into “Let the Night Fall,” also from the new record. Sorbara’s eyes were closed and arms outstretched, like some kind of synthpop angel, and the crowd ate it up. She was their saint, as was clear from the multitude of cheers of “we love you, Martina!” when the song ended and the house lights came up.
I was amazed by the sheer devotion of some fans, who frantically jumped up and down, danced unabashedly and sang the songs word for word. Some even traveled to see them.
“We came all the way here from Orlando,” Randy Rodriguez, 27, said before the show.
Though Sorbara’s stage presence engaged the crowd with her animated dance moves during the EDM-inspired musical breaks in songs like “I Get Around” and Galantis’ “Firebird,” her best moments were the ones where she showed off her vocal abilities, like in the slightly more downtempo “Ghost.” It felt like she was pouring her heart out to the audience, and it was such a genuine moment that, in my opinion, was one of the highlights of the night.
Prior to the show, when asked about the inspiration behind the new record, Sorbara revealed that the separation of her and bandmate Kurtz was responsible for much of the emotion present on it.
“ … Dan and I separating was difficult for both of us, and I think the emotion in this time frame was much more kind of like euphoric sorrow … a lot of the songs just have a bit more of a melancholy about them.”
“Euphoric sorrow” is the perfect way to describe not only the songs on the record, but the show overall. There was definitely passionate sorrow present in numbers like the aforementioned “Ghost” and “Sweet Poison,” but also dancepop bliss in crowd favorites “High Five” and — of course — “Hello.”
From the shrouding of Sorbara in white light, to the crowd frenetically shrieking during the band’s encore, the show was a religious experience. Pop and electronic music can be construed as being hollow or shallow, but this band brought an earnestness to it without sacrificing the catchy melodies. It was a Friday night well spent at the temple of the Dragon(ette).
Setota Hailemariam is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.