Alt-J lights up Hollywood Bowl

Mercury-Prize winners rock southern California with the help of two great opening acts.


Photo courtesy of Stephanie Stragier

Kyle Kohner, Writer

In light of recent disappointment surrounding their sophomore album, Alt-J performed a memorable show in front of thousands at the Hollywood Bowl aided by colorful synths and blinding lights. Openers San Fermin and Best Coast prove to be no slouch through memorable performances themselves.


Brooklyn-based, ska-styled indie band San Fermin opened the night with a brassy explosion of sound, surprising many new listeners with their performance.

Los Angeles-based duet Best Coast, a grungy beach-vibe band, followed San Fermin and showered the crowd with a cascade of sun-drenched California sound made possible by their mesmerizing guitar riffs.

After the inspirational and calming performance by Best Coast, Alt-J opened with the monastic chanting and booming, that is prevalent in their song “Intro” off their sophomore album “This is All Yours.” The song raised the audience to their feet — something the opening bands did not achieve. Accompanying the thrillingly enthralling synth lines of “Intro,” a blinding white light initiated the laser-light show the band usually provides in their concerts.

Alt-J followed their great intro with the ultra-sensuous “Every Other Freckle” causing audiences to come together, dancing and clapping to the line, “All hands clap human claps”.


There were many opportunities for the fans to come together in unison for the emotional performance by Alt-J. “Matilda” invoked a feel-good vibe that included the audience harmoniously singing “This is for Matilda”.

The audience beautifully and powerfully whistled along with vocalist Joe Newman to  “Warm Foothills,” which was the most emotional moment of the concert to me. It was beautiful to see this unity amongst thousands of people over a common love. Newman whistling live was rather gutsy, but he nailed it.

This moment of oneness emphasizes how Alt-J’s music has created their own common unforgettable language where no memorization of lines are involved.

The two downsides of Alt-J’s performance occurred in the middle of the show with slower songs “Narra,” “Leaving Narra,” and “Lovely Day.” They caused the audience to sit, fatigued after the emotional explosion during the first 45 minutes of the performance that caused jumping and dancing. Considering that those three songs invoked a sense of leisure and relaxation, the effect seemed intentional. Unfortunately, the distracting light show at times masked the energy of the musical performance itself.


Even with brief dullness, Alt-J revived the energy in the crowd with their hit single, “Fitzpleasure”, which flaunted their signature booming synth-lines accompanied by the bass drops.

To end the night full of diffusive yet ambient synths and a bright light-show, Alt-J put the audience in a state of completeness with their song “Breezeblocks,” which brought the audience together one last time.

The large crowd and the welcoming atmosphere of the California Alt-J fan base may serve as a breath of fresh air for the band and their fans moving forward. This concert reaffirmed in many minds why Alt-J’s cacophony of sound makes them one of the most unique groups of artists today.

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