It is no secret that ticket sales for this year’s Cage Rage were not astronomical. A large swath of the school community seemed unexcited and mystified by Concert Board’s choice of band, the Brooklyn based pop-punk duo Matt and Kim. Who can blame them? Aside from the sub-culture of indie music lovers at Tufts, few students had heard much of the band beyond their popular single, “Daylight.” From a brief perusal of their discography, Matt and Kim don’t really seem like Cage Rage material. Daylight is catchy and cute, but is it rage worthy? The answer is yes. Everything about Matt and Kim is rage worthy. The problem is you have to just be in the know, to know.
Saturday night in Carzo Cage, Matt Johnson and Kim Schiffino took the stage raging to their traditional entry music, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Jump On It.” They jumped around the stage, fist pumping, and hyping the crowd before taking up their instruments, Kim on drums and Matt on keyboard. Their commitment to hyping the audience only intensified over the course of the night. After the first song, Block After Block, Matt looked out at the crowd and implored, “I’m going to ask you guys to do me a favor and I will love whoever does it from now until the day I go in the mother-fucking ground….everybody JUMP.”
And jump they did. Not just on the popular and catchy “Good Old Fashioned Nightmare,” played third in the set, but on every subsequent song. Before their fourth song the band distributed balloons to the audience which bopped around for the eminently jump-able “It’s a fact.” With a mixture of enthusiasm, driving, beats, and sheer will power, the duo had already gotten the whole crowd dancing. Nowhere near content, however, Kim raised the bar: “I’m an honest fucking bitch and I’m telling you we can turn this party up another fucking notch.”
Before I get carried away let me say, Matt & Kim is not the most musically interesting band around. Kim’s drumming is thrillingly aggressive but a trifle monotone. There is little dynamic range within or between tracks and the melodies can all seem to blend together if you don’t know the group well. But Matt and Kim have no pretense at technical artistry or indie credibility. They are far more concerned with putting on a great show. As Kim put it in an interview earlier that day, “We’re the fucking party.” It’s no surprise then, that they identify more with top 40 hip hop artists and DJs like Girl Talk or Super Mash Bros than they do with bands like Grizzly Bear or The National, contemporaries from the Brooklyn indie scene. They certainly did a better job bringing the party than the opener, the decidedly mediocre Time Flies, who actually purport to be a hip-hop group.
So the fact remains, Matt & Kim are actually the perfect Cage Rage band. They actively work to make their music accessible to new listeners, weaving strains of popular hip-hop and techno tracks into their songs. They measure a successful a concert by how much they sweat (and make us sweat). They lead by example, regularly popping up out of their seats, on top of their instruments, and even onto the supporting hands of the crowd (where Kim broke it down to “Pon de Floor”) as if unable to contain their excitement. By the last song of their set, the crowd pleasing “Daylight,” Matt and Kim had worked the crowd into a veritable frenzy. Maybe you have to see it to believe it. Maybe if you weren’t there with the sweat-soaked crowd pouring out of Gantcher this weekend you still won’t really understand why Concert Board would book an indie duo from Brooklyn to play Cage Rage. All I can say is next time Matt and Kim come through your town, don’t question, just go.
For more Matt and Kim tune-in to In(die) Vogue on Thursday and hear my exclusive pre-cage-rage interview.
Also Check out this silly video of Kim in the cage:
Photos by Katja Torres