Hot Chip at the 9:30 Club

Synth-pop artists Hot Chip perform at the 9:30 Club in DC. Photo: Hot Chip

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2013 —A synth-pop group like the English band Hot Chip has a significantly different appeal for people who listen to them live. The entourage they attract to their live shows certainly enjoy Hot Chip when they buy and listen to their albums. Yet these same people absolutely love seeing this band live as well, as in their recent show at the 9:30 Club. They’re the kind of audience that helps create an electric atmosphere in the performance space during Hot Chip’s set, and transforming the entire encounter into a memorable experience with their abundance of energy.

Generally, Hot Chip isn’t a band that’s concerned with precisely replicating the sound of their albums to the letter when they play live. That’s mainly because they understand what moves the live audience they’re playing for. That’s not to say they abandon their brand of recorded sound when they play live. But they’re much more attuned to their audience and calibrate their sonic output to feed off a given crowd to maximize their effect.

A lot of this band’s onstage dynamism has to do with how they build their live set. The songs they play almost become irrelevant in a grand sense because they have a large repertoire of songs in their catalog to choose from. Once they get into a groove, the audience starts moving with the rhythm rather than with any order they might expect if they’ve experienced one of this band’s albums. Their recorded sound establishes a presence. But the way they approach and reorder their songs when performing live is a key element of this band’s success on tour.

Hot Chip have developed their sound over the years, imposing more of an R&B and dance influence on top of their already powerful synth presence. The incorporation of these influences has become stronger, pushing their sound closer to a club environment where they seamlessly switch between songs while the mass of people in crowd reacts to and moves along with each shift.

As these influences have become a more prominent feature during their live sets, they have insinuated themselves seamlessly into the spontaneous nature of their performance. While they don’t incorporate a lot of improvisation, they do stay hard and true to each of their songs in live performance, giving their sound much more of an organic feel than they sometimes have in their recordings. Contemporaries of Hot Chip often have moved in a different direction, embracing a more cold and electronic sound. But Hot Chip has embraced something that has a warmer, more personal feeling.

Ultimately, their show still feels like you’ve been whisked away to a lively dance club, which is more or less the effect Hot Chip is trying to achieve. After all, the core of this band is group of guys who like dance music of all kinds – really anything someone might hear that gets people on the dance floor – and their show reflects this a great deal.

The entire set gives you the sense at times that a skillful DJ has been planted just behind the curtain, expertly switching between tracks seamlessly and with a strong sense of purpose and direction. And that’s reassuring. It’s important to have each song meld into the next, because the last thing Hot Chip wants is to lose even the tiniest bit of momentum. It’s as if they’re sensing that any time they take a pause, they’ll create a situation where the crowd might stop. So they keep going, because this is a band that wants everyone dancing all night.


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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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