Live Review: MS MR and DJ Kitten at the Casbah, May 4, 2015

Photo credit: Nan Palmero

For eager fans who bought out the weeknight show less than four hours after tickets went on sale, MS MR did not disappoint. But first, Kitten front woman Chloe Chaidez got the night started, returning to San Diego after opening for OK GO last weekend at HOB.

This time Chaidez put on her headphones for a DJ set that attempted to turn the Casbah into a dance club with several ’90s and ’00s pop hit remixes. The “DJ Kitten” set, which included radio staples like “Hollaback Girl,” “Say My Name,” and “Genie in a Bottle,” occasionally hit the nostalgia sweet spot but just as often left the audience cold.

While it’s always nice to feel the heavy thrumming of a bass line in your chest, it was difficult to tell if Chaidez’s selections were actually mixed or if the sub-woofer was simply cranked up really high. The transitions were amateurish, when they existed at all, and it seemed like she needed several attempts to find the right buttons. With that said, Chaidez should probably be given some props because a) from my understanding, she’s not really a DJ and b) she chose songs that would have made an awesome mix tape to play at my girls-only slumber party in 10th grade.

Following that diversion, MS MR were up. Lighting remained low as the crowd stood in quiet anticipation of the indie-pop duo. Vocalist Lizzy Plapinger, producer Max Hershenow, and the rest of the band took their places onstage amidst a fog that crept eerily from the ceiling, creating a phantasmic silhouette of Plapinger. A mirror hung upstage, providing an interesting visual backdrop for concertgoers. It reflected the faces of excited fans and lit up an outline of MS MR with colored bulbs that flashed various patterns throughout the show.

MS MR instantly captured hearts with their mesmerizing performance. It was charming to watch Plapinger engage with the audience whether it took the form of flirtatious dancing, making sultry eyes over the mic, seductively moving her hips, arching her back, or whipping her hair while belting out lyrics. After each cheer from the audience, she smiled so genuinely one had to wonder if she didn’t fully expect the reaction she received. MS MR magnanimously thanked San Diego fans for their support, even going so far as to say that this is one of their favorite cities to play. MS MR reminisced about a surreal past show of theirs at Soda Bar as they called out to the show-goers, “Every time you’re amazing!”

During “Think of You,” introduced as a song created to help get over an old flame, fans outstretched their arms to Plapinger. It was as if simply touching her would heal their jaded hearts as she sang, “I still think of you / And all the shit you put me through.”

“Dark Doo Wop,” or what MS MR refer to as “the makeout song,” evoked a sweltering summertime daydream. Haunting, ethereal vocals layered over the swaying melodies of a soulful synth organ and choruses of “Baby, you should stick around,” to which Plapinger teased us at one point, “Casbah, you should stick around.” Though many of their songs came from their 2013 LP Secondhand Rapture, MS MR also previewed new material for their upcoming album Painted.

After the main set, MS MR returned for an encore to perform “Bones,” which highlighted Plapinger’s pure, rich vocals with undercurrents of primal beats and near-dissonant chanting. Of course, no MS MR show would be complete without “Hurricane,” the single that first gave rise to the duo and clearly thrilled fans. The euphoria was momentarily threatened by people who recorded video of the entire last song, creating a wall of cell phones that obstructed fans’ views. But even that annoyance couldn’t detract from the near-perfection of the show. Stay gold, MS MR. San Diego will welcome you back with open arms (and hopefully fewer cell phones).

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