Grandma, drill little holes into my eyelids...
On Friday night, Canadian electronic pop act Purity Ring played the late show at Vaudeville Mews. It was only the second tour date for the duo of 23-year-old singer Megan James and 20-year-old 21-year-old (that night was his birthday) beatmaker Corin Roddick, after a stop in Champaign, Ill., the night before, but they were already having a big day. That morning, Pitchfork (full disclosure: one of the publications I write for) ran an interview with the band under the website's buzz-generating "Rising" tag. It was the first time I'd been able to find key information on James and Roddick, such as their names, or the fact that they're originally from Edmonton but now live in Halifax and Montreal, respectively. Along with the article, Pitchfork also shared "Belispeak," which is only the third publicly available song from the group. But those first two songs, "Ungirthed" and "Lofticries"-- the two sides of a 7" that has long since sold out-- were already almost ridiculously impressive, combining the woozy, bass-heavy wobble of Southern hip-hop with the eerie lyrics and pitch-warped vocals of futuristic Swedish duo the Knife to create a new kind of head-nodding, captivating dream-pop. And Purity Ring will be joining another band that evolved from nebulous blogger praise into a pair of legitimately satisfying (and, in the case of 2009's Psychic Chasms, somewhat zeitgeist-capturing) albums, Alan Palomo's Neon Indian, on tour this fall. So getting an early glimpse of them at a small venue here in Des Moines, away from any annoying blogger's crappy phone camera but my own, was a real treat.

Purity Ring didn't disappoint. Sure, there were the expected hiccups, such as the fact that the volume was way too low, so that during quiet moments you could sometimes hear outdoor DJ Alex Brown's reggae wafting in through the door. And I definitely can't tell you the lyrics or much else of interest about any of the new songs we heard; they all sound pretty much like the three we've already heard, and for now, that's wonderful-- we could definitely use a whole album like this. But what I can tell you is that Purity Ring's live show, in keeping with its releases so far, feels like the product of far more forethought than we'd typically expect from such a young band. It turned out that my crappy phone camera was almost useless, because the band performed mostly in the dark, with intermittent stuttering flashes of onstage lights. They played in front of their own big, multi-colored backdrop-- which I don't remember much about, sorry-- with James on one side, roaming the stage and threatening to bang on a giant gong, while Roddick was on the other side of the stage hunched over a variety of electronics. The turnout was light, but passionate, all assembled up in front, even bartender Clint Curtis, who usually hates everything but that night was front row center waving his hand in the air. Purity Ring played the three songs we know, James' sweet lilt transmogrifying into a goblin groan over Roddick's shuddering rhythms. They played a few songs we didn't know. And when it was over, we cried out for an encore. As with Tennis when that band played here well in advance of its own album, James was forced to admit the group just didn't have any more songs. Basemint Design was on hand selling a Purity Ring poster, and the band itself had brought tank tops, but no records yet (a split 7" with Braids is due next month on Fat Possum). I bought a poster, and a tank top, and then the nice folks from Basemint Design were kind enough to call me back over so I could exchange my tank top for Purity Ring's one remaining T-shirt. #wearitwithpride

The headliner of the early show, metal band Nachtmystium, unfortunately canceled.

Purity Ring, slightly more visible here.
Eagle-eyed reader and Des Moines' own king of the mustache Shane O'Brien reminds me of another glaring omission from my recent list of upcoming shows: Rap trio Das Racist plays the Blue Moose in Iowa City on October 21. I still need to get tickets, but I definitely plan to be there, and maybe even head up to Chicago the next day for a Northwestern football game if I'm lucky.

Christopher the Conquered
I also had the great pleasure and privilege of getting to play records a couple of nights in the past week. The first was outdoors at Vaudeville Mews' PBR Bar on Saturday night-- huge thanks to Ladd Askland for booking me and to T.J. Wood, who (good for him, terrible for us) will be moving to New Orleans shortly, for putting up with me and for keeping me supplied with Sazerac. (Another upcoming date: T.J.'s Last Stand takes place Saturday, September 10, at the Vaud, with the Powerplant, Wolves in the Attic, Dustin Smith & the Sunday Silos, Gadema, and DJ Richie Daggers.) And then, on Tuesday night, the Poison Control Center's Patrick Tape Fleming held his birthday party at the Vaudeville Mews, with really fun sets from out-of-town indie-poppers Fishboy and their Sam Cooke-quoting, accordion-toting member Googleplexia, plus locals Christopher the Conquered, Wolves in the Attic, Derek Lambert and the Prairie Fires, and, in a rare appearance, January Rabbit. Between sets, I got to go upstairs and spin records. Thanks so much to Patrick for asking me to participate, to Logan Christian on sound for all his help, and to Brody for working the bar downstairs.

After the jump, full track lists of my sets, with links to streams: