On Friday, November 3, the air around Concord Music Hall suddenly became a lot louder, from the intensity of the electronic beats playing inside. The source was Snakehips, the British electronic music duo, who had just started a powerfully transcendent set. Snakehips’ performance was, in short, a veritable parade of intense beats and transcendent vocals.
Snakehips had sold out the Music Hall in years past, and did so again this year. Audience members were packed into the main room, with everyone at most a few meters from the stage. As the show began, I started to realize why Snakehips had attracted so many listeners, despite a minimalist show that used only its particular brand of lights and sounds.
The expansive hall was crowded with people mostly in their 20s and 30s, who swung their bodies and rocked from side to side with the transfixing rhythm. There was a dense fog hanging in the air throughout the show, which softened the strobe lights and spotlights, casting an ethereal glow over the audience. At one point, the combination of powerful red laser beams, wide-flared green spotlights, and purple-lit fog made the venue seem like the surface of another planet. The colored and choreographed light show was complicated, varied, and fit perfectly with the particular song being played. It is hard to exaggerate how powerful the effect of the combination of lights and music was on the audience. During a particularly drawn-out melody, the venue was lit up in a deep verdant green. These kinds of artistic congruences made the show into a multi-sensory experience, one that combined sight, sound, and touch, felt most profoundly in the bone-shaking bass beating throughout the room.
The band wrings out electronic songs with rhythms contrary to typical electronic dance music (EDM) acts. Compared to recent EDM hits like “How Deep is Your Love," which features predictable progressions and abrupt transitions from dramatic build-ups to main melodies, also known as “bass drops,” Snakehips’ songs have a more complex, hip-hop feel to them. Songs like “Dímelo” and “Burn Break Crash” meld more traditional synth sounds with hard-hitting, rattling 808-style drum machine beats. Snakehips’ songs have recently featured big names in the hip-hop world like Chance the Rapper, Tinashe, and Tory Lanez. In fact, Snakehips became well-known only after their 2015 collaboration with Chance the Rapper and Tinashe on the song “All My Friends,” a catchy, summer-anthem style song that reached No. 5 on the U.K. Singles Chart.
EDM’s style, for years now, has been characterized by rehashes of simple, repetitive electronic music. Fortunately, though, Snakehips has started to deliver a new brand of EDM, which draws on the catchy authenticity of vintage-style lyrics and melodies, while staying true to the hard-pounding bass and eclectic synth modulations that made the genre so widely popular.