Sylvan Esso at Variety Playhouse on Jan. 15

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Photo by Katie Caldwell


Whoever decided opposites attract must have been talking about Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn combining EDM with indie folk vocals straight from the hills of Appalachia at a sold-out Variety Playhouse on Jan. 15.

The duo, based out of Durham, N.C., started the show off with a high-powered rendition of “Could I Be,” a track that perfectly showcases Sanborn’s ability to mirror and echo Meath’s poetic lyrics about making it big with hypnotic bass.

Meath hijacked the crowd’s attention with her expertly executed verses during “Dress” and ended the track by borrowing: I woke up like this, from Beyoncé’s “Flawless” – very much to the crowd’s delight.

“Coffee,” which is arguably Sylvan Esso’s most popular song, featured more subtle rhythmic bass lines from Sanborn and was beautifully delivered with a raw vocal authority and climax that really ignited the crowd’s excitement.

“Hey Mami” begins low and slow with Sanborn’s skillful looping of Meath’s voice, as the piece quickly morphs into an all-out dub pop free for all, followed in perfect succession by the enormously danceable “H.S.K.T.”

Ironically, “Play It Right,” which touted lyrics like; When the sounds come together so close to my face/ It’s no wonder we wonder, was a track by Meath’s earlier project, Mountain Men, that Sanborn remixed back in 2013, launching their creative endeavors.

In the end, the duo played all ten tracks from their self-titled (and only) album. Meath extended her gratitude to the crowd for embracing their sound and debut.

During the encore, the duo performed a new song for the first time with more of a math rock influence. Sanborn admitted to Vinyl after the show that the song was so new that it “doesn’t even have a title yet.”

Despite both Meath and Sanborn’s successes in their previous projects that highlight their own personal talents, they have managed to combine their contrasting musical perspectives into one cohesive and unexpectedly thrilling musical experience. Sanborn’s powerful beats breathe life into Meath’s eerie indie croons; both are incredibly proficient in their respective sounds, but the way they come together is truly magnetic.

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