by Lauren Foliart
Describing Sylvan Esso’s stage arrangement is simple: a girl with a microphone, a guy with a sound mixer, some fog, and some lasers. If someone switched on the house lights during their show, that is what everyone would see. However, Sylvan Esso’s performance is anything but elementary. Every moment is engineered with intention and every note played with a purpose. They take stage fully prepared to make the crowd forget the outside world and just dance.
At the Fox Theater in Oakland, Sylvan Esso did just that for two sold out nights that will forever be remembered by Bay Area fans. Their energy was infectious; their sound flawless. What could have been just another 40-dollar-plus-fees concert, they orchestrated into a priceless experience I’m daydreaming about still.
Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn only met five years ago, which is almost hard to believe considering how lock-step they are on stage—a near psychic connection between them. In 2012, the two were involved with separate bands when Sylvan Esso became a side project. Meath wrote lyrics to a song she needed someone to articulate with production, and upon finding Sanborn, that song soon became their hit single, "Play It Right." Afterwards, the duo moved to North Carolina and started a partnership that ultimately changed their careers.
The duality of what each of the brings to Sylvan Esso is undeniable when they perform live. Meath’s unmistakable voice paired with her standalone presence makes her a riveting frontwoman. It feels like every one of her moves is organic, but at the same time choreographed, taking into consideration the smallest of details such as her shadowed silhouette in the light projections. However, if at any moment you found yourself so enthralled with her dancing that you forgot to dance yourself, Sanborn is there with a massive punch of bass to get your feet moving again. The sound he produces on stage is equally as provocative as what he creates in the studio.
Sylvan Esso’s stop in Oakland is one on an international tour, in support of their sophomore album What Now. For most of their fans, this was the first time hearing those new tracks which have become instant classic summer anthems. Even their older songs like “Coffee” and “H.S.K.T.”, which we have repeatedly played over and over again since 2014, felt new again.
Hyping this album since October 2016 when I saw them perform at Treasure Island Music Festival, it surprised me not to see their name on the festival circuit for 2017. Sylvan Esso provides the ultimate festival set: high energy dancing, large scale visuals and an overall performance worth seeing from start to finish. Now, after seeing them in a small renovated theater like the Fox, I understand why they opted out. Sylvan Esso wanted to give their fans exactly what they delivered—an intimate evening to dance their hearts out with the band.