MS MR has carved a niche in the indie-pop scene with their distinctively dark power-pop; their music is characterized by haunting and burning synths that drive foreboding and gloomy lyrics. Plapinger, the “MS” half of MS MR, opened the night with their hit “Bones,” singing in polished, raspy vocals delicately balanced between vulnerable and powerful. In apocalyptic love song “Dark Doo Wop,” Plapinger gave a taste of their angst-ridden lyrics, singing, “The world is gonna burn, burn burn burn / As long as we’re going down, baby you should stick around.”
Perhaps one of the most entertaining moments of the show was when Plapinger half-dedicated “Think Of You” to her ex, joking how she eagerly awaits the day her ex is in the audience to hear her sing, “I still think of you and all the shit you put me through.” As a pleasant surprise, Plapinger and her musical partner Max Hershenow also premiered their cover of Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know,” reclaiming the grimy, sluggish alt-rock single as their own stripped and hauntingly sexy ballad.
Despite their occasional grim lyrics, the two exhibited an animated stage presence that emphasized the pop aspect of their music. Donning typical 80’s style futuristic garb such as a pink shag coat and a metallic silver bomber jacket, the duo bounced and bobbed and swayed, transforming the single “Fantasy” into a danceable party hit. Deep bass grooves and powerful synth beats, combined with Hershenow’s nimble keyboarding, made their music sound much larger and grander than it does recorded on their album. The small venue definitely helped; their sounds bounced off the walls and reverberated, making their sound more grandiose and full-bodied. The only time the show felt intimate was when MS MR began “This Isn’t Control,” having their bassist and drummer retire backstage and Plapinger and Hershenow occupy a single spotlight.
What impressed me the most was how confident MS MR seemed in their own sound and ability. They moved swiftly and deftly across the stage, were not shy about joking and bantering with the audience, and exuded a kind of bravado and charisma that is rare amongst newly emerged bands. Judging from this performance, the “Hurricane” isn’t the darkness of Plapinger’s heart; it is the sheer volume of sound that engulfs the shows she plays with the band.