There’s something so satisfying about going to a concert to catch a break from life kicking your ass. On Dec. 12, when I was sinking in the mire that was the final days of fall semester, I nonetheless decided the best use of my time before a final exam was to drive to Detroit to see The Internet (yes, the band) live. Despite some logistical hiccups, which resulted in me driving alone, in a borrowed car, with a manual transmission, I still managed to scoot down the highway to Detroit. On the downtown streets, I avoided the high-vis vest types harping their parking lots and opted to poorly parallel park only a block away from the venue.
Walking to the steps of Saint Andrews Hall and beholding people still waiting in line almost an hour after doors opened was an omen the atmosphere that night was going to be electric. A pat down and a trip to will call later, I was armed with a photo pass on my wrist, which gave me William Miller from “Almost Famous” levels of confidence as I smooth-talked my way into the exclusive VIP seating upstairs. Opener Moonchild took the stage as soon as I found an advantageous spot to settle on the railing. Their brand was slightly Vulfpeckian, lo-fi funk with tinges of pop and jazz.
They were nothing to write home about until the main vocalist, Amber Navran, and the two pianists flanking her sides each pulled a saxophone or trumpet seemingly out of nowhere, much to the crowd’s surprise. Maybe it was a testament to the audience’s attention level that we didn’t notice the array of instruments at their feet for a song or two, but after they busted out the brass, our eyes and ears were captivated by their sweet symphony.
Moonchild didn’t stop there; they showcased their talent as multi-instrumentalists by playing flutes and clarinets to boot. While the crowd gathered was not quite their mellow target audience, we still vibed with them, especially when they got everyone chanting along to a cover of Jill Scott’s “A Long Walk.” They exited to joyous applause, not stealing the show from the main act but serving up a savory appetizer: the perfect kind of opener.
After Moonchild had packed up their instruments and bright lights flooded the venue once again, the wait for the top-billed band was par for the course (read: almost criminally long), but the in-house stereo system kept it lively, which is almost too easy to do in Detroit when you play “First Day Out” by Tee Grizzley. So when the music abruptly cut and the lights went dim, the audience was roaring. A five-man wrecking crew piled onto the tight platform to the opening kicks and snares of “Roll (Burbank Funk),” and immediately everyone in the packed Saint Andrews Hall was bobbing to the music.
Both the crowd and band were in perpetual motion the remainder of the evening, stopping only for a second after the intro song when frontwoman, Syd, took a swig of her drink from a paper cup and set it down near a speaker. “Hold on, let me secure this tea,” she said to the crowd’s laughter, as drummer Christopher Smith started to play the opening notes of “Dontcha.” Other than that track, the setlist was comprised of cuts from Ego Death and their 2018 release Hive Mind, with the balance unsurprisingly favoring the more recent.
The first half of their performance was more geared to cutting a rug, with crowd favorite singles “La Di Da” and “Come Over” doing the heavy lifting. And yes, The Internet had two literal Persian rugs on stage, a couch stationed on top of them. While Smith and producer Matt Martians mainly sat behind their drum set and synthesizer respectively, guitarist Steve Lacy, bassist Patrick Paige II and Syd didn’t hesitate to get comfortable. Paige and Syd flopped on the couch and cheered on Lacy as he took over for “Beat Goes On,” while Syd and Lacy sat in awe of Paige’s meditative verse which closes out “It Gets Better (With Time),” a song that Syd took a somber moment to dedicate to their late friend Mac Miller.
On stage, The Internet looks a motley bunch, each aesthetically adding their own stylistic flair: Lacy, who I am convinced can make any piece of clothing look hot, rocked a tie-dye shirt, split toe boots and a rainbow guitar straps; Syd was unassuming in her plain white T-shirt and ultra-flared pants; Smith happily drummed along without a shirt. Much like the crowd packed within walls of the venue, The Internet represents a variety of ages, backgrounds, styles and personalities. But together, they somehow make it work, and get the crowd to work in unison, too. As Syd and Lacy slowly strode from side-to-side strumming and singing along to “Curse,” the mass on the main floor copied them, swinging in sync with the twosome like the Hall was playing Simon Says.
We were enchanted by the love songs, but also bounced to the triumphant songs like “Get Away” and “Just Sayin.” For the latter, Syd even coached us through the hook (“You fucked up!”) recognizing the audience’s adrenalized engagement. “I know how Detroit get loud as fuck,” she yelled, a wide smile on her face. With a longer-than-average set and magical prowess, they gave us a reason to get loud. Everyone left with vibrancy coursing through their veins.
The Internet ended their set a tad unceremoniously, but with a good sense of humor: They picked up their instruments and shuffled off-stage as the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme played. Perhaps a bit ironic, as I had to return to the empty reality of the bleak winter night outside and Ann Arbor where work awaited, or perhaps a bit self-aware, as The Internet keeps up with the constant pressure of touring as they continue across the United States before embarking for Australia and Europe. Nonetheless, exams happen and sold-out shows will be played, because on nights like this, The Internet reminds us the beat goes on.