On Nov. 16, indie-pop duo Matt and Kim played to a sold-out crowd at Little Five Points’ Variety Playhouse. Defying all expectations set by the genre, Matt and Kim, featuring Matt Johnson on vocals and Kim Schifino on drums, produced an unforgettably explosive, high-energy show.
As the venue fell into darkness, the lights on stage began to pulse bright white. The duo erupted on stage to a hyped-up, electronic remix of “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, with Matt tossing logoed T-shirts into the enthusiastic crowd. The cheers swelled as Matt took a seat at the piano, banging out the first few notes of their hit single “Daylight.” Matt’s vocals were indistinguishable from the audience’s emphatic chants to the chorus: “In the daylight anywhere feels like home.” The song faded out, and Matt brought the mic close, shouting, “Welcome to the ‘Grand’ tour!” The duo went on to explain that the show was a part of their tour commemorating 10 years since the release of their sophomore album, “Grand,” and they would be celebrating by playing the album in its entirety. Although the couple started producing music in the early 2000s, it was the success of their 2009 album “Grand” and its breakout single “Daylight” that brought the band to mainstream attention. Since then, the band has been unstoppable, releasing their fifth full album, “Almost Everyday,” in 2018.
A few songs into the set, Kim pulled up a picture of Matt’s family house in Vermont, where the couple had spent two months writing and recording “Grand.” As they flipped through a slideshow depicting their 20-something selves recording the albums, it was easy to believe their earnest claims that the album had changed their lives. The juxtaposition created by the photos of the duo recording in a cramped bedroom compared to the modern-day Matt and Kim selling out shows across the nation was remarkable. As the set continued, it was clear that the audience shared the artists’ appreciation for “Grand.” While performing “Lessons Learned,” Matt pointed the microphone to the crowd and screamed, “Let me hear you!” encouraging us to sing the staccato vocals that occur throughout the song. Matt and Kim closed out the “Grand” album with a sing-along, remixed version of “Daylight.” The euo shot confetti throughout the room, and the backdrop projected “Happy birthday ‘Grand,’ you make mom and dad proud.” Before taking a brief intermission, they assured us that the show was just getting started.
Although usually categorized as indie pop, a Matt and Kim show is anything but typical of the genre. Early in the set, Matt stood up from the piano to announce, “There’s a thing about a Matt and Kim show where we like to get weird.” The duo lived up to this promise, throwing inflatable sex dolls into the crowd during “Hey Now” as Kim played the drums with dildos, mirroring thier performance at Dooley’s Ball last year.
When buying tickets to a Matt and Kim show, you are met with the warning on the website: “Language is definitely not suitable for all ages because of Kim.” The dialogue from the band was layered with brash profanity. While to some this could come off as crass, the authentic charisma of both Matt and Kim kept it from seeming distasteful.
Matt and Kim’s songs themselves do not hold much complexity. Each song is largely formulaic, with surface-level lyrics backed by frenzied electro beats. However, it is clear that the focus of a Matt and Kim show is not just on the music. In an interview with the Wheel, Matt said that he and Kim “orchestrate [their] set more like a DJ would,” with samples from artists like Lizzo and 50 Cent woven throughout the set. While the simplicity of their songs could have made for a bland show, the duo ultimately created an experience that was unabashedly fun. Encouraging crowd surfing and moshing, the show felt much more like a club-style rave than a typical concert. Throughout the show, the duo glowed with undeniable charm and chemistry. Kim poked fun at Matt for his lack of rhythm as she led the audience in a series of snaps and claps in “Spare Change.” Later in the set, Matt and Kim stepped down from their instruments and began a karaoke version of their recent single “Money.” Rather than simply watching a band perform, it felt as if the audience was a part of the performance. By bringing uninterrupted energy and charm, Matt and Kim cultivated an atmosphere where the audience could let go and lean into unrestrained pleasure.
The duo closed out the show with “Let’s Go,” projecting the lyrics to the chorus across the screen: “Say what you wanna say/ Make it mean everything.” While some artists choose to end on softer, quieter notes, Matt and Kim went out with a bang. The song came to a close, with confetti filling the air and T-shirts being thrown into the audience. Exiting the stage to a backing of raucous electro beats, Matt shouted across the crowd, “Y’all are the best!” As I began to leave, I realized I was exhausted and sweaty from the nonstop action of the show. Still, I couldn’t help but smile. Matt and Kim’s positive energy had been infectious.