In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re remembering songs from the great live performances we saw in 2012.
My 2012 was heavy on nostalgia shows from older acts I love, but whose best days are unquestionably behind them (The Jesus And Mary Chain, New Order, Peter Gabriel, Prince, etc.). Sometimes living in that sort of risk-averse, jukebox bubble—combined with the general jadedness that comes from being called upon to criticize new music—can calcify, causing you to forget the feeling of being unexpectedly blown away by an unfamiliar band. That’s why my favorite live moment this year belongs to Trust. The Toronto duo played a late-night after-show during Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest (a festival stocked with plenty of nostalgia), plying its sinister, sickly coldwave in Elysium, the city’s equally sleazy goth club. (Obviously, the perfect venue.) Although I think that, like me, most of the audience was only passingly familiar with Trust’s debut, there was a palpable excitement among a crowd equally stocked with EDM kids, aging record nerds, excited frat bros, and the same black-stocking-clad creatures of the night who have been haunting the club ever since I used to do New Wave nights there in my early 20s.
Trust definitely stoked that anticipation by waiting until the witching hour, with elegantly louche lead singer Robert Alfons finally slinking on stage behind a wall of smoke and flashing lights around 1 a.m. And in this ideal, none-more-black milieu, his set was truly transcendent, hitting its apex with single and album closer “Sulk.” There’s tinny cell-phone video, but it doesn’t really do justice to the song’s room-rolling synths, or the way they so perfectly contrast Alfons’ lyrical confession, “Honestly, I can’t take tonight.” It’s a contrast that, for me, recalls the moody lyrical push-pull of songs like The Cure’s “Open,” and hearing everyone in the crowd sing along proved equally evocative of the memories of scores of death-disco parties I’d seen in that very venue. It made me feel young again, in other words, and it reminded me there would always be new bands capable of doing that. Pretty enlightening for such a dark tune.