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The Sapphire Supper Club should have been selling oxygen tanks instead of martinis because by the time Hooverphonic set up on stage, so packed was the venue that there wasn’t any breathing room, let alone elbow room. I spent a good portion of two songs pushing and shoving my way from the front door area to the rear bathrooms. I even saw the doorman refusing entrance to a few late-arriving fans (who made it inside anyway). However, it’s encouraging to see such a large crowd turning up for two bands at the forefront of their scenes.
If one was looking for the purest definition of trip-pop, you needn’t look further than Hooverphonic. Although I haven’t picked up a copy of Blue Wonder Power Milk, the Belgium group performed much from their 1996 debut, A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular. Tonight’s headliners did well translating digitally based music into a lineup of guitars, synthesizers, and drums usually reserved for a rock and roll band.
The four diffident gentlemen in Hooverphonic proudly backed a new front woman, Geike (rhymes with Mike) Arnaert, who sported a gorgeous plaid skirt and a tight red shirt with the pointiest brassiere since Kim Novak. Perhaps the homogeneity of their native Belgium made her ethereal voice an almost perfect match of her predecessor Liesje Sadonius; Arnaert’s breathy, seductive expression made it very easy to lose control during Hooverphonic gems like “NR 9,” “Innervoice,” and “Plus Profond.” Strangely, the group twice performed their hit song “2Wicky”—first about halfway through the regular set and second as a “remixed” version for the encore.
Black clad and heavily tattooed, the opening band Snowpony’s vocalist Katharine Gifford madly pranced around on stage in four-inch heels despite the bouncy nature of tunes like “Titanic,” giving hard-edged visuals to her innocent and aloof vocals. Gifford shook her spring-water bottle for extra percussion throughout most of the show. During the last song, she drank in huge gulps and sprayed out misty water, fountain-style, from her mouth.
The burly yet girly bassist Deb Googe brought the grinding riffs perfected from her years with the legendary British shoegazers My Bloody Valentine in songs such as “Bad Sister” and “Easy Way Down.” Like Gifford, her dominating stage presence negated her seemingly harmless elfish appearance and pixie-short hair. The touring drummer Kevin Bass beat his kit with machinelike precision. Interesting enough, this rhythm section has only been together for maybe a month or two at the most.
Snowpony’s keyboardist/sampler player Max Corradi wore a ratty old Mickey Mouse T-shirt in honor of this Orlando performance. As merely a sampler-trigger, Corradi seemed to put forth the least amount of effort in the group. Even when he grabbed a microphone to back up Gifford on vocals, the shy, curly haired man was barely audible. At one point, he even left stage midsong as the sequencers kept cranking out the tune.
Despite recent press, I would hesitate to call Snowpony a supergroup due to the fact that both Gifford’s and Googe’s presence in their former bands was overshadowed by the creative forces of Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and the duo of Laetitia Sadier and Tim Gane (Stereolab). Snowpony has shown enough of a distinct musical identity that future discussions of this band will not need the support of these references.