Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 26, 2013
The world of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. now operates on one law of nature and physics: If some is good, more is better. This wasn’t always the case for Dan Zott and Josh Epstein. Early on, they made their name wearing NASCAR racing suits and trafficking in Pet Sounds–era two-part harmonies. The first song on their debut EP, “Nothing but Our Love,” was sort of a simple offer compared to the bombast that’s begun creeping into their more recent work. Thus begins something of a second life with a new EP, the two-weeks-old Patterns: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. in an active and obvious evolution. Bubbles, cloth lanterns, enormous inflatable balls and human beings—the band sent spheres of all kinds into revolution if not outright orbit on Friday night at a very sold-out and frenetic Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. opened with a brief teaser of the “na-na-na” chorus of first-LP jam “An Ugly Person on a Movie Screen” before making the transition to open with the recent “Hiding,” an enormous slice of buzzing synth pop. With Zott rocking a side ponytail in his curly brown hair, and both members wearing matching paisley suits, the sounds owed themselves to the crossover of “We Are Young,” by fun., but the visual aesthetics were all LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” This was as exciting to the Warner Music contingent in the balcony as it was to the combustible fans on the floor. Dale Earnhardt. Jr. Jr. turned to play “Simple Girl,” a sweet little song from their first LP, It’s a Corporate World, before running through “Vocal Chords” and some new material, noting, “You’ll know this one,” prior to playing “Morning Thought.”
But, unquestionably, the moment of the evening occurred when the enormous inflatable white sphere that stood like an unpigmented sun above the stage was lit with projected animation, making a gigantic Lego-man face that sang along with the music. The face became 8-bit animation to go with the lyrics for “Skeletons,” a loop of the life cycle of a tiny pixelated man and woman. The song, about the twin impulses of forgetting and remembering the past, rang perfectly for the band on the cusp of something of a big next movement, the next turn, the lives of imagined selves and illuminated orbs set against the “skeletons buried in the backyard.” —Geoff Nelson