Written by Erin Beattie
Walking into the Showbox SODO was like being transported into the world of synth-pop if such a place existed. The brainchild of Megan James and Corin Roddick, Purity Ring kicked off this leg of their 2016 tour with HANA Monday night.
I don’t know about you, but I’m always a little skeptical entering into electronic shows. Besides my fear of electronic groups who hide behind their keyboards, controllers, and drum pads, while showing little physical movement or emotion, dealing with the crowd is a bigger fear of mine. I never know exactly what the crowd has come to experience and I can only pray that the night won’t be void of substance. But Purity Ring’s fan base is far from mindless fans and their music is far from mindless electronica.
Imagine a stage enveloped in rows and rows of stringed lights suspended from a grid above in a ‘60s door-beaded manner. Smoke pouring from the background, and as the space around you fills up, the remnants of bass from overhead tracks move through the crowd like electricity. Then the lights dim, signaling the beginning. (Spoiler: my skepticism quickly faded with them.)
HANA set the stage with electro-ambient girl-power accompanied by killer beats (not to mention she also gives Ariana Grande’s pony a run for its money). What compelled me was the pureness of her performance— a solo artist switching seamlessly between vocal play, dancing, and mixing. Effortless vocals layered over minimal yet hypnotic beat immediately drew the crowd into an ethereal vibe that would be carried out throughout the night. It’s no surprise that her debut self-titled EP received acclaim from musical peers like Lorde and Grimes(who she also supported on tour this year).
My advice? Keep your eye on this lady—her work deserves attention. By the end of her set, I almost forgot that she wasn’t the main act of the night and there was still more show to come.
A short break followed, while the stage was reset and anticipation built. When the filler music faded, a beat dropped while Roddick took stage behind the stringed lights at a geometric fixture with translucent crystals. Striking each with a drum stick, the shapes lit up in response along with the twinkle of the hanging bulbs. My only disclaimer? Many times throughout the show, Roddick was lost behind all the effects onstage. Despite this fallback, the stunning light show utilized every inch of the stage, adding a lot of dimension to the music.
Front-woman, James’ made her way to the center stage. The lights pulsed brightly in different colors and patterns. She wore exaggerated, pointed shoulder pads and let her hair run wild against gusts of air surrounding the stage.
This introduction felt like an encounter of the third kind—the crowd erupted before she had sung a single note. I was transported to another world for a hot second, lost completely in the experience.
The progression of events were dynamic, filling the room with great energy. James pranced across the stage, weaving in and out of the lights, engaging with all corners of the large warehouse in a unique way. The crowd moved easily with each change in pace and the connection between artist and crowd was built up throughout the set.
Purity Ring organized their set with a great selection of songs from their first album, Shrines, and their sophomore album released last year, Another Eternity. Every song I wanted to hear was represented and performed with the accompaniment of the brilliant light show(including "body ache", "Lofticries", "push pull", and "begin again").
At one point James took a nasty fall onstage, laughing before picking herself up to continue the set. I don't think anyone saw this as a weak point of the performance, though. In fact this slip-up brought me back down to earth, proving the authenticity of live performance. The effect was organic and warm followed by an incredible recovery.
As I walked away from the night, I realized I needed the reminder that electronic music can and does have soul. Purity Ring will provide anything from a good time to a restoration of faith in electro-pop.