It’s the end of November, which means a wrap on all the amazing shows put on by Red Bull Sound Select for their annual series, 30 Days in LA. To kick off the final week, Norwegian pop songstress Aurora headlined two nights at the Fonda, joined by Foreign Air and Oyster Kids for two nights of indie greatness.
Oyster Kids kick with the cool composure of a band that’s already achieved hipster fame. They sounded crisp at the Fonda on Sunday night, gliding through their set with ease. Playing for a short half hour, they kept it simple and hit their current singles and then some. They have a relaxed indie rock feel, and compared to the other acts on the bill they are relatively downtempo. Despite keeping it all lowkey, they have had a robust start to their career, landing on KCRW and playing at hot LA venues for the past year. Their trajectory reminds me of Gallant, a star that seemed to come out of nowhere, riding the Red Bull wave of fame right into the arms of Sir Elton John. The debut release from Oyster Kids is bound to be comparable to other spectacular debuts from bands that are now household names, so don’t sleep on them.
I wouldn’t say my expectations were sky high, but I was hoping that Foreign Air would impress me, given that they were billed after a band I already knew would be great. Though my socks were not knocked off, all was not lost. Slightly lacking in the stage presence department, Foreign Air made up for it by showing us their brand of seaside indie rock. The lead singer, who sounded a lot like Spoon, did some calisthenics that reminded me of David Byrne in Stop Making Sense, but the entire set didn’t quite have that energy. That said, the music itself was consistently strong, notably during their slow burning alt-rock single, “Free Animal.”
But all that was just preamble. When the curtain came up on Aurora, the crowd went wilder than I expected. The house was mostly filled though not packed, but you wouldn’t have known it from the way a handful of fans were celebrating at the foot of the stage. Turns out, Aurora’s got some serious stans.
One of my favorite facts about Aurora is that one of her biggest fans is Katy Perry, who actually came out to the Bootleg when the Norwegian musician visited LA over a year ago. They were introduced on Twitter, where undoubtedly many Katy kats were listening, though I won’t presume that those are the only people capable of being such devoted fans. After all, it is easy to admire someone so talented, not to mention so delightfully charming. When people would shout “I love you” between pauses, Aurora would return the sentiment almost every single time. As her band made adjustments for the next part of the set, she took gifts from the audience, also mentioning that people had given her things before the show, thanking them too.
As for the music, Aurora masterfully navigates a sparse pop landscape. Fans told her before the show that they were ready to dance, but she admitted that her songs aren’t that type of pop music. Occasionally there is uptempo percussion, but her music is really about invasive insecurities and emotional escapism. You can dance to it, sure, but you can dance to silence too. Aurora herself loves to move onstage, keeping the mic in its stand so she could wave both arms around to the beat. During her finale, “Conqueror,” she took the final twenty seconds or so of instrumental outro to swing, held down by neither mic nor man.
Everything was beautiful, if you wilfully forget the obnoxious fans that insisted on vocalizing every thought in their head. It was most irritating when the songs got quiet. I don’t normally see encores at Red Bull performances, but Aurora came out for one more song, a bewitching rendition of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars.” She sang practically a cappella, occasionally supported by quiet keys. But of course, after the first verse, someone ruined the moment by shouting, “Bowie, baby!” Ugh. Look at that caveman go.
Words: Zoë Elaine
Photography: Andrew Gomez