May 28, 2023
The Meadows, Brooklyn, NY
Okay, I know I said in my intro blog that I don’t go to NYC. This is usually true, but if a good show comes around that I can’t catch anywhere else, I’ll suck it up. This was the case when I found out that Xeno & Oaklander were opening for Martin Dupont. As an added bonus, it fell on Memorial Day weekend so it was a good excuse for a day trip. My hope was that most New Yorkers would be out of town at the shore for the holiday.
I was only half right. Luckily we left early enough to deal with the painful traffic on the Verrazzano bridge. On the bright side, parking was a breeze in East Williamsburg near the venue. We had a few hours to kill so we got an amazing brunch at Otis, then walked over to the East River.
My partner and I first saw Xeno & Oaklander open for Dais label mates Drab Majesty at Underground Arts in Philly in 2019. Looking back, that was an amazing show. Body of Light (also on Dais) played with them.
Sean and Liz, the duo that is Xeno & Oaklander, are Brooklyn locals known for their extremely minimal sound made solely with analogue modular synths. During their set, I noted the bird’s nest of wires on their table, but no laptops! If you want to go down a rabbit hole about modular synths, I highly recommend the 2014 documentary “I Dream of Wires”. You can watch an extended interview with Sean on YouTube that shows their process.
Luckily, we got a great spot front and center to watch their set. They played some tracks from their latest albums Vi/deo and Hypnos and possibly some earlier stuff. Liz’s vocal style is a perfect match for the cold matter-of-fact synths. Her performance is mostly stoic and unemotional except for the occasional dance to the beat. Sean remained focused behind his suitcase of knobs and wires.
In between sets, we caught up with local friends and chatted in the cramped outdoor smoking area. By this time, the modest club was completely full. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked like it was sold out. Unfortunately, we lost our great spot at the front and had to stand waaay back near the merch table. I actually stood on a couch to see over all the damn tall people. Have I mentioned that I’m only 5’1”? They don’t make platform boots tall enough for me.
In spite of the bad view, the headliner Martin Dupont sounded absolutely incredible. However, if you’re not familiar with them, you’re not alone. I actually had never heard of them until a week before the show. According to their current label Minimal Wave Records, they formed in 1980 and only released three albums before disbanding in 1987. I found a few old music videos online. My favorites are Inside Out and He Saw the Light. Apparently they just released a new album in February of this year called Kintsugi on Minimal Wave which features “lush re-works of their old songs.” I love it and have been listening to it on repeat for a solid week. If the idea of 80’s French cold wave piques your interest, I highly recommend it. It’s a lot of fun and doesn’t take itself seriously. And if you like Kintsugi, there’s only three old albums to catch up on.
After the show, my partner bought a Xeno & Oaklander shirt and vinyl and had it signed. The members from Martin Dupont seemed really happy to be there and hung out for fan selfies. Vocalist Alain Seghir especially seemed to be enjoying himself. I can’t say for sure, but I get the impression they’re having a lot of fun. They’re clearly happy to be together in front of a crowd again after 35 (!) years.
We closed out the night catching up with our local friends some more before the long drive home. In the end, I’m glad we made the trip north into NYC. Who knows, maybe we’ll be back sooner than later.
-Moon Cat *More show photos and videos on my Insta @yrgrrl_m00ncat