On a special Friday Popscene that went far into the night, all the way into the headliner’s birthday, the crowd was treated to synth pop in different forms — the dark tinged variety, the choreographed kind, and finally the made-for-the-charts sugary pop of Victoria Hesketh, aka Little Boots. It was a fun night, although not without some rough bits.
Feathers were the first band, and it truly felt I was watching augmented electroclash. There was a band on stage, but the main bass hooks and melodies were prerecorded, and the guitarist often went minutes just shaking her guitar, waiting for the opportunity to play a riff or two. This made the performance somewhat boring, despite the strength of the material. They also asked to “turn down the lights” making seeing or photographing them awfully difficult.
Boring would quickly become a thing of the past when Avan Lava took the stage. All week long, I thought I was seeing a band called Alan Lava, and was unable to find out anything about them. A few minutes after they took the stage, I tweeted “HOLY SHIT! ALAN LAVA!” I feel horrible. I’ve been talking up a non-existent band. This is AVAN LAVA, and they deserve to be talked up. They call themselves “super pop,” and what that means is aggressively fun pop songs sung with absolute joy by TC, who is clearly influenced by Jake Shears of The Scissor Sisters, both in voice and dancing style. Their set was an in-our-faces attack of fun. I was reminded musically most of “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” by the S.O.S. Band. If that song were a band, it would be this band. I can’t wait to see them again.
Little Boots’ set was beset with technical difficulties before she even took the stage. The setup took longer than was expected, and much of this time saw two technicians staring at her vintage keyboard, turning dials and hoping it would turn on. After 15 minutes of this, her touring keyboardist came out, spun a dial and it turned on. And about a minute later, the show began. While the screen behind the band was meant to show some visuals, it instead showed the desktop of the Mac that was having a hard time showing them. And then the in-ear monitors stopped working, leading her to get some mid-song adjustments from a technician.
These are the basics. Little Boots is not a polished live act by any stretch of the imagination. This has been the case every time I’ve seen her. And in one way, this totally works. She’s laid bare out there, the nicest person in the world, apologizing for her mistakes and engaging with her fans in a sincere, lovable way. If you’re already a fan of hers, you’ll love every minute. During the encore, she performed “All For You” as a solo keyboard number, and even though it wasn’t perfect (and again brought an apology), it was wonderful. This lack of polish, though, also works against her, because were she to play a festival set in front of a less friendly crowd, these sorts of errors would look unprofessional.
There’s no denying the material, though. Victoria Hesketh, as Little Boots, writes fantastic dance pop songs. She works with top producers and creates songs that are fun to both sing and dance along to. Among already-feel-like-classics tracks such as “Remedy,” “Stuck on Repeat” and “Satellites,” you’ll find a couple dozen songs that would feel at home in a disco or on a summer’s day driving with the windows open. If the world were fair, she would have a string of mega-hits. C’mon world, let’s make things fair!