Yoga Girls, Karmin, and Junior Boys came together April 22 to perform at the Berklee Performance Center. Although the groups are divergent in genre (electronic, rap/pop, and indie, respectively) the reason they were chosen to headline this particular event was clear: they all incorporate innovation and technology into their work.
The concert signaled the start of the Rethink Music Conference, a three-day experience (April 22 to 24) that hosted speeches, performances, workshops, panels, and competitions to incite innovation in the music industry.
The Yoga Girls opened the show. The two young women walked quietly onto the stage, seeming not to notice the audience in front of them, solely focused on the computers and machinery in front of them.As soon as the first notes were released from the speakers, the room was booming like a nightclub non-stop for the entire 25-minute set.
Every time instinct told you a song was over, the girls revved up another pounding beat that shook the wood-paneled walls. They danced to the beat of their own music, instinctively knowing when a part of their sampling devices needed to be plucked, turned, tapped, or otherwise adjusted. They incorporated dozens of different sounds — buzzing, drumming, flying noises, and even underwater-esque whirls.
The only audible lyrics understood throughout the set were, “Today I’d like to show you how to do the downward facing dog,” a reference to the band’s theme that got a chuckle from the audience.
Karmin was welcomed to the stage next with clear excitement. With millions of hits on YouTube the viral internet sensation’s connection to the conference’s innovative theme was clear: the group uses technology for marketing purposes more than for musical enhancement. Likely the most anticipated group because of the members’ status as Berklee alumni and their recent rise to fame, the duo received excited applause as they walked onstage.
Singer Amy Heidemann’s animated facial expressions and bright smile are as endearing onstage as they are in the couple’s videos. Wearing her now-famous suicide roll hairdo (a 1940’s-style poof above her forehead) she demonstrated her chops as both a belty pop singer and a rapper worthy of respect.
Her fiancé and bandmate, Nick Noonan, stayed in the background, offering backup vocals and keyboard accompaniment and allowing his future wife to steal the show. If he is jealous of the attention she receives, he didn’t show it — he watched her wail the high notes with a proud smile on his face. With the help of a guitarist, the duo performed five songs, including their singles “Crash Your Party” and “Brokenhearted” and the Chris Brown cover that incited their online notoriety, “Look At Me Know.” The band received a standing ovation and a few (unanswered) requests for an encore.
Junior Boys closed the night with indie and electronic sounds that contained both modern quirks and throwbacks to the past. The bands consists of one enthusiastic lead singer (Jeremy Greenspan), one focused drummer, and one seemingly indifferent bandmate (Matt Didemus) who only proved he was awake by the arm movements he made working the electronic aspects of the music on processing and mixing devices. The band used disco-like 70s sounds and 80s synthesizers with contemporary twists from the sleepy-eyed bandie’s machines.
While the first few songs seemed to sound oddly alike, all starting with breathy vocals and continuing with overpowering instrumentation, the set escalated as it went along. The concert ended as Greenspans’s energy soared — he released a powerful (and previously unused) falsetto that reverberated in the room as the band performed their catchiest tune.
The opening night bands set the tone for the festival by showing off their use of technology. As for how other artists can successfully emulate the techniques employed by these artists, the bulk of the conference began the next day.