By Setota Hailemariam
April finally arrived, and everyone knows what that means: music festival season is fast approaching. If you’re like me and are too broke for Coachella tickets, have no fear — Crystal Fighters brings the carefree summer festival vibes to you.
The U.K.-bred band’s show at Black Cat in D.C. on April 7 was a nonstop party and made me forget that I was at a small club in the nation’s capital, not Indio, California.
L.A.-based band machineheart took the stage first to warm up the crowd, wordlessly assuming their instruments before launching into the first song of their set, “Can You Hear Me Now.” The quartet sounded Of Monsters and Men-esque, thanks to the ethereal voice of frontwoman Stevie Scott, but with a darker, alt-rock twist.
By the time that the last notes of highlights “Cage” and “Madness” were played, the audience was more than ready to continue the night of good music.
When the stage crew began setting up for Crystal Fighters’ set, I thought nothing of it. Until they brought out a ukulele. Then a megaphone. Then a mic stand covered in plant leaves. I knew then that this show was about to be a real experience.
Sure enough, the band came out shortly after. The backup singers were clad in tribal-print skirts and headbands, and lead vocalist Sebastian Pringle sported a poncho, feather crown and beaded tiger necklace. Their bohemian style was a reflection of the influence the band draws from the Basque region of Spain, as I learned prior to the show, an influence that plays a big role in their music as well.
Gilbert Vierich, guitarist, described their fascination with the region before the show: “It’s such a beautiful part of the world. It has like a strong, sort of folkloric tradition … it really appealed to us in the aesthetic and the feel … all those things coming together just had so much energy for us.”
That energy shone through all throughout their set, as Pringle waved a bouquet of grass around as he danced around the stage, prompting the audience to do the same during numbers like “Yellow Sun” and “LA Calling.”
So many of their songs were veritable dance numbers, you’d think it would get repetitive after a while. However, each one seemed fresh and inspired, thanks in part equally to their use of Basque folk instruments and the plain catchiness of the tunes — “All Night” and “I Love London” in particular.
The show wasn’t just about the music, though. The band made sure to spread their message of love and harmony. Pringle gave an earnest speech about how “there’s a lot of bullshit coming out of this town,” in a not so subtle dig at Trump.
They immediately went into a ukelele-driven, half-Spanish, half-English song with the refrain “es mi familia” — a direct reference to the title of their latest record, “Everything is My Family.”
Vierich had a lot to say about the inspiration behind the release, explaining that it came from “that sort of realization that we’re all part of this one universal thing, and realizing that everything really is your family — not just people … but also the trees, the water, the air … we’re all part of the same thing.”
Everyone in the audience truly became a family that night, joined emotionally by the shared connection with the music, and physically, as everyone was encouraged to join hands and extend positive energy “into the ether,” to quote one of the onstage members.
Pringle burned sage as the next song in the set began: “Lay Low,” dedicated to the band’s former drummer who passed away.
The mood was uplifted shortly after with the crowd favorite “Good Girls,” and the dance party continued. A track from their latest release, it was not only a standout on the album but a highlight of the night.
By the time they played one of the last songs of the set, “At Home,” the realization that the night was coming to an end hit. The bittersweet melody made it feel like you were watching the credits of a movie, one that you didn’t want to end.
The final stop on their spring tour, Crystal Fighters’ D.C. show was not one to miss. I left feeling like I had just witnessed something new and rare, and most of all, longing for the breezy days of summer.
Featured Photo Credit: Crystal Fighters perform at the Black Cat. (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Photographer)
Setota Hailemariam is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.