MoMA PS1’s Warm Up outdoor concert series, which aims to showcase live, experimental music in the courtyard of the satellite museum in Queens, New York, is deep in the swing of its 15th summer. Last night’s iteration was the fifth of this season alone, so by now, attendees know that the weekly Saturday event – curated by indie tastemakers along with the heads of forward-minded labels like True Panther, XL, DFA Records, RVNG Intl and Tri Angle – offers something more than a cool beat or two. The hordes who braved lines upon lines on this day’s 90-degree weather just to hear the likes of Barcelonian minimalist producer Zora Jones, also-Barcelonian mashup worker Sinjin Hawke, Brooklyn electro trio Lemonade, and London experimentalist Pearson Sound were mainly there for another purpose, and that purpose became crystal-clear as the marquee acts took the stage.
Red-hot R&B singer Miguel performed a brief yet galvanizing set with his neon-clad backing band, delivering one of the few “concert” experiences of the evening and giving the thousands crammed into the gravel-floored courtyard something to scream about with a handful of weather-appropriate nü-R&B tracks off his forthcoming LP Kaleidoscope Dream in addition to a newly rap-infused performance of one of his well-worn covers, 2Pac’s “I Get Around.”
(After a 30-minute performance, he gushed to Rolling Stone about the joys of playing a nontraditional audience.) But of course, after many hours of six-dollar beers and merely occasional relief from the heat, courtesy of a hulking, blue starburst-like sculpture/fire hydrant/air filter named Wendy, there comes a point when actually paying attention to a performer is simply too exhausting. That was where the event’s headliner Jamie xx, a member of London’s the xx and an accomplished producer in his own right, assumed responsibilities.
Visually, Jamie’s headlining 90-minute set was anything but remarkable. Backed by a fluorescent stage installation, the slight-framed 23-year-old kept more or less completely silent and didn’t vary much up between his turntable work with the xx’s Romy Madley Croft (who showed her support from backstage) and Oliver Sim, and his more London-underground DJ sets. It’s absurd, however, to presume he would ever have to: as the front rows of the fever-dreaming throng last night proved by literally turning their backs on the DJ, his throbbing, 90-minute set had far more to do with fans’ being there than it did with whatever was happening onstage. Those who were paying attention might’ve appreciated the subtleties of Jamie’s choices: smooth transitions between tracks, rhythms that built at just the right speeds, and a certain un-gaudy, seasoned approach to a genre by which American audiences have only recently begun to be mesmerized.
Well after dark, and with only 15 or so minutes left in the night, the crowd could no longer contain itself, spilling over the nylon barriers and onto the platform stage itself. PS1 Warm Up attendees were there to be seen and to blow off steam, and that opportunity was precisely what Jamie xx’s sophisticatedly understated performance delivered.