Some Nights Ago: Xiu Xiu & High Places at Oxford Art Factory

I had a cloud over my head as I walked into the Oxford Art Factory on Thursday night, possibly because of the event that was to occur the following morning: the second-last presentation I’d ever give in architecture school. So as you can imagine, I was feeling a little guilty for being out. Luckily it was time well spent with one curious double bill.

I arrived during the vibrant end of Kyu’s set, with family and friends supporting the Sydney duo. The girls played an upbeat and intelligent set, feeding off each other’s energy and it was promising sight.

A dull crowd greeted L.A.’s High Places and in all honesty, I felt embarrassed. But the duo powered on with class and professionalism in contrast to those on the receiving end. Much of their set was taken from their latest release High Places Vs. Mankind and to my delight we saw the band diving head first into ephemeral guitar loops, which formed the base for Mary Pearson’s delicate vocals – the standout track being “On Giving Up”. With the odd track from their debut thrown in like “The Storm” and “Vision’s The First…” it was great to see High Places once again embodying a wide range and complexity of sounds yet retain their ethereal aesthetic.

If there were a theme for the night it would be that all good things come in twos. Kyu, High Places and now, Xiu Xiu.

In a similar vain to High Palces, Xiu Xiu were primarily riding on the back of their latest release – Dear God, I Hate Myself is one of the better records of this year. Opening with “Gray Death”, the art-pop duo meant business: minimal crowd interaction but utterly immersed in their songs, with sporadic and intense bursts of energy from both Angela Seo and Jamie Stewart. “Hyunhye’s Theme” and “Fabulous Muscles” broke my heart, with “The Fabrizio Palumbo Retaliation” and “Dear God, I Hate Myself” ferociously mending it up again. “I Luv The Valley Oh” almost became an anthem with a good portion of the crowd yelling along – this sealed and buried the guilt I walked in with and was just thankful from here on in.

It usually annoys me when bands ignore the fans/crowd, but I didn’t care one bit during Xiu Xiu. This is a band with strong convictions it almost hurts.

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