This is the second installment in a new series, The Cauldron’s monthly concert roundup, reviewing and recapping the previous month’s entertainment offerings. Want to add your experiences to future articles? Contact us.
February 23, 2022, with Cecile Believe and Molly O’Malley
“Internet music” was a theme of my last article, and this continues here, with no one exemplifying the term more than Magdalena Bay. The viral duo is having a busy year, headlining their own tour, as well as opening for Flume and Charli XCX.
Magdalena Bay comprises vocalist and songwriter Mica Tenenbaum and producer Matthew Lewin, who met in high school but reconnected in college to launch the group. Moving to L.A., the pair took off, carried by short-form social media content. “Their charm is in their irreverence and spontaneity, how their output both embodies and reacts to internet absurdity” said Cat Zhang for Pitchfork.
Chatting with my fellow audience members, I learned that most of us discovered the band via Spotify’s algorithmic recommendation — matching the band’s strong internet presence and their Y2K aesthetics and futuristic vibes, a world where our taste is decided for us by artificial intelligence.
The show actually told the story of their AI assistant, projected on a screen and interacting with the band between songs. The cohesion between the band’s visuals, musical style, and performance created a world — a Mercurial World — that fully immersed in the audience with the aesthetic of a Bladerunner beach vacation.
When the show began, Tenenbaum entered the stage with a hands free microphone, leaving her free to roam the stage and engage with the audience. Her vocal delivery was reminiscent of Poppy’s early work, and undeniably stands out from the rest of the pop landscape incredibly appealingly, simultaneously robotic in a sense, yet delivered with emotion and passion that kept the crowd moving.
Standouts were many, including all of their album’s singles, “Secrets (Your Fire),” “You Lose!,” and “Chaeri” being my favorites. They expertly created an entertainment experience that you couldn’t help but move to. The encore comprised the band’s biggest hit to date, “Killshot,” including a transition into the “Slowed + Reverb” version of the track, which narrowly trails the original for most plays on the band’s Spotify.
Also worth a mention is opener Cecile Believe, whose experimental pop music was both accessible yet avant-garde. Having recorded vocals and written songs with “SOPHIE” and “A.G. Cook,” Cecile Believe is positioned among pop royalty, and deserves more attention in the scene. A standout track was Bitch Bites Dog.
Overall, the music and experience of Magdalena Bay earned them the title of my favorite show in February, and I highly recommend getting hip to them now, as they are going nowhere but up.
February 24, 2022, with Lolo Zouaï
The very next night I went to my final show of the month: Caroline Polachek, joined by Lolo Zouaï. The pair are currently touring with Dua Lipa (who coincidentally has a song written by UPSAHL), stopping to perform more intimate shows between their sold out stadium performances.
Polachek first rose to fame as a founder and vocalist for the band Chairlift (who coincidentally was cited as an influence by Magdalena Bay). She has since released three albums, first as Ramona Lisa, then her initials, CEP, and finally, her full name with the 2019 album “Pang.”
She opened the show with the album’s title track, instantly gripping me into her ethereal creative world. In addition to the music, the gorgeous stage design was striking. Relatively simple, projection mapping was used to animate ornate gates at the back of the stage, creating a gorgeous backdrop to the performance.
I cannot say enough about Polachek’s creative vision. Her music and visuals create a portal to another world, seen directly in her videos for “Door” and “The Gate.” On the topic, she tweeted, “i don’t have a creative director. that’s why my world has visual integrity. cause the thru-line, quality control, & ideas are anchored in my deep relationship w the music.”
Also featured were newer songs “Bunny is a Rider” and “Billions“. The former was ranked by Pitchfork as their #1 song of 2021, and the fans seemed to agree, with the track garnering the largest applause of the evening.
The latter, Billions, caused Polachek to reflect on the smaller venue and how it different it was to the stadium shows with Dua Lipa. She shared how it was the first time the audience had been able to sing along to the song.
In October, I wrote about seeing Squirrel Flower’s reimagining of Polachek’s hit “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” which served as the final song in Polachek’s set during which she lead the audience in the signature choreography. As an encore, Polachek performed “Parachute,” as well as the album’s first single, “Door.” Technical difficulties abounded in this final song, which required multiple false starts, but Polachek quickly regained control, leaving the stage to meet the crowd and finish the night on a positive note.
Lolo Zouaï opened for Polachek. The Paris-born musician brought a solid selection of pop songs from her 2019 album High Highs to Low Lows. Her songs “Brooklyn Love” and “Moi”included dynamic lyricism, switching between English and French, however their production has not held up as well, with the chopped vocal technique popularized and perfected by artists like Marian Hill and AlunaGeorge sounding like 2016. Zouaï shined on other songs, including Desert Rose and Caffeine, both with laid back vocal delivery and powerful production that compliments her voice rather than transform it.