Listening to the duo Petrie as my first live music experience of London, I was pleasantly reminded of why I like to go to live shows.
Singing through their latest studio album Superstore, and a handful of singles, the British vocalist channels a blend of electric-R&B meets angsty-alternative-pop. By looking at the grooving bodies around the room, it is clearly successful. I felt as if the lyrics and melody were made to resonate with people that feel different, unique and content with their whole selves (as opposed to feeling the need to display your best self all the time, like todays radio pop hits seem to be stuck on) and doing so in a city built on a façade. During my time in London, for example, I’ve learned that between the Victorian and Georgian-Neoclassical forms of architecture that make up the city, came with an elaborate and uniform exterior guise. The backs of these buildings, however, are often seen to be more chaotic; non-uniform and designed specifically to the person building it. Lyrics like the line in Petrie’s song Slurs, “Lose myself in a lavish London lounge, lose myself to a savage underground” shows this disconnect between upstairs and downstairs London; what you are meant to see and what is kept hidden. This performance was reminiscent of that; looking around, I felt that at least for a moment we were experiencing the hidden and could all let our personal façades fall and just enjoy the state of being.
It is hard to place Petrie in a certain genre, but more and more we simply call it “indie music”, referring to the intentionality behind the experimental qualities of the sounds. This music basically just refers to any music that attracts mainly hipster types (the too-cool-to-haveanything-in-common-with-the-common folk). While the sounds may be familiar, this is usually the type of music that is more inconsistent with the popular standards we hear on the radio. That may be what I enjoyed the most about them; that and their rowdy British on-stage energy.
The snare is an apparent element to many songs of theirs, but it gives off a sound similar to those found in rap and trap music. That makes me wonder if this is an aspect that compels younger crowds, since it blends alternative music and the hip-hop qualities of the increasingly prevalent world of rap around us. Because the show encompassed mostly electric and eclectic sounds, moving, grooving and dancing came naturally to the crowd. There was a bit of mixing the electronic sounds with the acoustic ones, but the overall feeling of the show was about the seamless integration of both. There was an element of the music that made me want to sing along, though I didn’t know any of the words. Looking around the room though, there were people mouthing along to a few of the notably more popular songs. The ballad-ness of the vocals over funky beats gave a Michael Jackson feeling to a few songs, which easily invited dancing from audience members. Since the show, I’ve found myself studying and cooking to Petrie, playing from my Spotify.
The energy on the stage (and even in recorded tracks) makes the band seem bigger than two members; as if there were at least four bodies for the performing energy to bounce off of before they hit the audience. This embodied what I expected to get out of a British performance, as I associate them to be more naturally rambunctious and reciprocating with the audience. The lead vocalist seems like he was born to perform as he jumped around the stage and showed off theatrics. The keyboardist and guitarist, brought the spunk as he slammed down the notes and provided background vocals. To me, Petrie is a great example of how I view young Londoners: one member is seemingly very normal in appearance with a simple style, perhaps embracing the non-standoutish lifestyle (after all, not everything needs to be a show or to be proven to everyone, like today’s fashion and push of aesthetics makes it seem) and very lets-get-down-to-business-esque. The other member, with his color changing buzz cut (at the show it was white, on the album cover it is hot pink), very much appeals to the sense of embracing one’s uniqueness and seems to crave weirdness and turn that into art.
The age of the audience members was surprisingly varied; most of the crowd was around my age, in their 20s, but there was also a small group of older adults as well. Our guesses told us it was likely parents of the opening acts and other older supporters, but they stuck out like sore thumbs in the crowd of mostly Millennials and Gen Z’ers. The younger crowd was an eclectic one. They all looked like they walked out of an Urban Outfitters catalog; very on trend with the whole trying-hard-to-not-try-hard look; all clothing and that has been forgotten about, exiled or is making its way back round the bend of fashion.
The Moth Club in Hackney was the perfect intimate venue for a small beatnik band like Petrie and their equally unconventional fans. The room was shining and sparkling in every way it could; between the shiny eyes and bling of the audience and the glittery gold wallpaper everywhere. It looked like I had just stepped into a 1980s prom scene, but with a well stocked bar to the side. The room was pretty dark otherwise, the specks of light bouncing from the glitter illuminated much of the space, creating an intimate vibe. It was almost like a concert in a redecorated garage -- a band of friends, playing for the larger community of friends. This, along with the angst of the crowd, set the tone for a ‘too-cool-for-prom’ aesthetic; perfect for the performing artists and sounds. The sounds of the reinvented electro-soul worked great in this setting of reinvented nostalgia for a scene none of us would know, but is still iconic of the mood. I actually have a theory that London (maybe England in general, still working on this), is intentionally stuck in the 80s. It is seen in the hairstyles, the fashion and overall aesthetic. It is not uncommon to see a pale lavender bowl-cut, electric blue eyeliner or an earring dangling on just the one side. One may also often have the pleasure of seeing trousers that stop right above the ankle with egg and bacon clad socks poking through, paired with a band tee and block color rain jacket. The sentiment left behind by David Bowie still reverberates through the streets of London, and everyone seems to be here for it.
For tickets costing only slightly under £10, I got to join in on an exclusive London experience, or at least that’s how it felt. Moth Club is tucked away and hidden to the main public eye just down the road. This tells me that the community support of the members in-the-know are what help keep this place going financially. The two sided bar that separates the entry lounge area from the performance space offers creative libations like rose and hibiscus gin and tonics, catering to the Millennial vibe of incessantly seeking floral/herbal infused things. I felt that I had stumbled upon a very authentic bite out of London, as the audience was clearly there for the same insider vibe. I hope I can catch them and their distinctly and uniquely British energy during a time they make it to the States on a tour (which will no doubt be soon). Until then, the pleasure was all mine.
a senior in Annenberg studying communication and marketing. I am highly interested in the various ways information is conveyed for different types of people and situations. I am vert attracted to global and cross cultural perspectives and how the divergent and intersections of these perspectives influence the communication used around us. I’m also really inspired by the ways communities and organizations self identify and craft their narratives. Global trends and communication styles motivate me to always think of the bigger picture. That’s why I’m here in London; to experience first hand these distinctions in cultural communication styles.