Author: Andres Vaamonde
If they ever fully fumigate Barton Hall after Saturday night’s Icona Pop-headlined concert, I will be impressed.
Minutes before the Swedish synth-pop duo graced the surprisingly well-manicured makeshift stage (my props to CCC), the crowd stewed in sweaty expectation. The mass of alcohol-reeking youth surged with bro-ish clamoring. Moshes started to form and unform, oscillating to the beat of the droning background DJ’ing. Zoology majors could have counted viewing the concert towards extra credit. Barton Hall became tame Altamount.
It would be nearly two long, confusing hours before Icona Pop arrived on stage in all their electro-glowing glory, though. The first two forgettable acts, Lowell and Five Knives, seemed hell-bent on bastardizing pop music. Their performance of remedial, tone-deaf tuneage could not have ended quickly enough.
The disappointment would come to an abrupt halt with the arrival of Grace Potter to the stage. Potter, a Vermont native, played thumping rock to the bass-drop fiending crowd to surprise aplomb. Performing with only a lone electric guitar and husband Matt Burr on the drums, Potter was miraculously able to fill Barton Hall with her sultry voice steeped in country blues. The peak of her set came during an effortless rendition of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock n’ Roll” that sent the tank-top adorned crowd into a nostalgic backspin.
Despite the potency of Potter’s performance, the sad truth is that she never should have been on that stage. Placing her Janis-Joplin-with-more-sex-appeal style immediately before Icona Pop was a mistake. To a crowd pregnant with anticipation for danceable jams, Potter’s presence was perplexing, if not disagreeable. “I’m from the Northeast, I know how you guys party” she sneered, her swaggering indifference nearly mocking the situation.
At the conclusion of Potter’s set, the crowd at Barton Hall swelled. Having not yet been given the EDM they came for, the face glittering masses grew restless. Mere minutes after Potter left, the two robotic-fashioned Swedish electro pop princesses emerged to a booming welcome.
Icona Pop, composed of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, were not spectacular, but absolutely lived up to expectation. Their dance-inducing synth pop, which in their own words “you can both laugh and cry to at the same time*”, catered to the exact needs of the pulsing Barton Hall crowd. Though Hjelt and Jawo are not exactly brilliant singers, bass drops a-plenty and a hypnotic light show hide their occasionally iffy voices.
Where their technical ability failed, however, Icona Pop’s likability gleamed. They understood their audience and tailored their performance perfectly. “This is our first real tour of U.S. colleges,” they said, with smiling and suggestive eyes, “and we heard you guys party pretty hard.” Roaring laughter and applause broke out amongst the fratty crowd. “Who’s taking body shots off us later tonight?”
But let us not kid ourselves. Icona Pop’s entire set, though vibrant and exciting, was a formality. The anticipation for their epochal single “I Love It” was as palpable as the stagnant Barton Hall air.
And yet, the masses did not receive what they desired. It would appear as though Icona Pop have no interest remaining with their feet cemented in 2012. Choosing to follow in the footsteps of Bruce Springsteen rather than one-hit wunderkind Rick Springfield, they played a far less blaring and unrecognizable version of the chart-topping hit to unsuspecting, if not confused, ears. Though the beat was slightly forgettable, the decision to not remain in the past is an omen of good things to come. Icona Pop may just be here to stay.