Matt and Kim are easily the happiest act I have ever seen. The Brooklyn dance-rock twosome are so full of smiles and energy that it’s almost impossible not to pogo along to their hyperactive indie-pop sound. They took to the stage at Crowbar in Ybor City Saturday night, laughing and cracking jokes about haunted hotel rooms and overzealous New York City police officers, easily winning over the crowd.
Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met in Brooklyn, New York in 2004. Soon after they began dating, and the relationship of Matt and Kim evolved into the band Matt and Kim. Schifino provides the backbone to the group’s sound with her bright and energetic drumming, while Johnson pounds away at the keyboard and belts out clear and piercing vocals.
Though their latest self-titled release encapsulates most of the “oomph” of their sound, it is their live performances where Matt and Kim really shine. Throughout their set at Crowbar, Schifino sported an ear-to-ear smile that looked as if it could have cracked her face in half. The expression never disappeared and, amazingly enough, never looked forced. It seemed as if there was no place in the world that she would have rather been than pounding away at her drums while Johnson wailed into the microphone.
Johnson won over the crowd with his hilarious anecdotes and self-deprecating humor as much as his musicianship. Stories of nearly-naked tour bus lockouts and soft jabs at his penchant for hiding onstage mishaps underneath a simple-yet-catchy keyboard techno riff punctuated the giddy, boisterous songs.
Musically, Matt and Kim are intense. Faces stretched into beaming grins, they produce very danceable indie-pop. The keyboard-fueled ballads are nicely balanced with the giddy-up rhythms of Schifino’s simple drum set up. Their live rendition of “Yeah Yeah,” the standout track from Matt and Kim, transformed the crowd into a seething sea of singing hipster faces. Silhouetted in a spotlight, veins bulging in his neck and right hand stretched out as if to grab the sky, Johnson chanted the chorus along with the audience.
The instrumental “Grand,” with its gradual build and addictive keyboard hook, grabbed the room and slowly hypnotized it with a manic progression that climaxed into an almost overwhelming crescendo of crashing cymbals and mesmerizing pipe organ-sounding riffs. Matt and Kim played nearly their entire catalogue of songs, which, sadly, took less than an hour. This wasn’t too surprising considering that their self-titled release weighs in at a speedy 29 minutes. They play so hard and fast that they occasionally seem to outpace themselves. When Johnson breathlessly schmoozed with the crowd, it seemed as though he was bracing himself for the next track as much as being sociable.
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In the end, the most interesting thing about Matt and Kim is that their ecstatic attitudes seem truly genuine. The giddiness and exuberance they convey with their music are not saccharine imitations, but the real thing. The duo is sincerely delighted to be on stage performing and sharing the love they have for music with everyone they come across, and that is both rare and wonderful to witness.