M83: The Dreamiest ACL Performance

Words by Kristen Chambers

Before I can tell you about how amazing M83 was at Austin City Limits this year, I will need to fill you in on a back story.

I fell in love with the French synthpop/rock/ambient band M83 relatively recently, only about a year ago. Throughout my freshman year, I would make the long journey through Austin traffic to West Campus once a week to visit my best friend Anna who is a student at the University of Texas. Every time we hung out it was relatively the same humorous experience that consisted of three rituals: being absolutely ridiculous, watching Vine (this was prior to the death of Vine), and listening to M83’s album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming on vinyl. The album quickly became a part of our tradition and a foundation of our friendship.

Over the summer Anna worked as an intern at a firm in San Francisco and this semester she is studying abroad in Italy. Although Anna has left me for adventures in far away places, she did leave me with one thing: the M83 record. Over the summer I became dedicated to M83’s unique synthpop/alternative/rock/electronic sound. Their music is celestial and I am constantly amazed that people are capable of creating such inventive material.

Fast forward to ACL 2016. Anna couldn’t be a part of my real life experience with M83 because she is busy having the time of her life in Europe, but fortunately, I found another good friend to see M83 with me instead of Flume, that was playing at the same time.

Courtesy of Austin360

Courtesy of Austin360

This may sound dramatic but, in short, the concert was a spiritual experience. I had never really spent time looking up the members of the band, their looks, or videos of live performances, so every aspect of seeing M83 live was a beautiful surprise.

M83 recently came out with a new album, Junk, that they played songs from, including their hits “Do it, Try it,” “Go!,” and “Laser Gun.” Junk is a lot more groovy, electronic, and full of bangers than Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, which feels more like a collective soundtrack to your dreams than songs that jam individually. However, they did play many jams from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, including “Intro,” “Midnight City” and “Steve McQueen.” They actually opened with my all time favorite M83 song, “Claudia Lewis.” When I heard them start to play that song, I knew the concert was going to be an incredible experience.

The members of the band were unbelievably fascinating. The mastermind of M83, Anthony Gonzalez, has a passionate voice that sounds magical at all times. Kaela Sinclair, whom M83 recruited from LA, played the keyboard, wore a killer, long lace-up black dress, had red and purple hair, and had a voice that sounded immaculate. The most fascinating member, however, was guitar player Jordan Lawlor. He had a head full of ringlets and when the lights shined from behind, he looked like an angel. Literally, an angel from the paintings you see in old churches.

Each band member was so individually talented and that was not really something I had thought about prior to the concert. There was a focus on showcasing their musical capabilities, and I found that to be very admirable, especially from a synthpop band. M83 was able to flow in and out of these solos so seamlessly that the audience remained mesmerized throughout the concert, instead of feeling like the solos put a halt to the ambiance of the show.

The setting was a huge contributor to the show’s aura. The light show was hypnotizing, consisting of fuchsia, purple, blues and greens. My favorite lighting effect was how the lights would shine behind them in the backdrop to look like stars. The concert happened during sunset, so it was completely dark outside by the end of the show. The transition from light to dark combined with the beautiful lighting led me to feel convinced this concert was low-key my entrance to Heaven.

Overall, M83’s performance was intoxicating. I spent the concert jamming out and dancing as well as being in awe and staring in amazement. I seriously considered buying a ticket for their Dallas concert and driving up there to see them again, six days after the ACL concert. M83 would be worth it.