Live Music: Body Language @ U Street Music Hall - 11/10/11

Maybe it’s because I’d been listening to Body Language’s latest, Social Studies, for nearly two days straight. Or maybe it’s because I’d been stuck in a box inside a box, awash in paperwork and fluorescents, for the better part of a week, then suddenly let free and forced by friends (FORCED, I tell you!) to imbibe in adult beverage after beverage after beverage. Or maybe merely the process of descending downstairs toward UHall’s deep dark well of dance simply changes a person. Whatever the case, I found myself perfectly primed to enjoy the sold-out Body Language show and geared up to express, for better or worse, my own.

ASS shaking...up close and personal

When we arrived, the venue was packed, but not uncomfortably so. Body Language seemed caught in a moment of confusion and communication typical before a big show, possibly about monitor mixes or other minutiae not resolved during soundcheck. Whatever it was, if anything, it was short-lived and ironed itself out, because they started almost immediately thereafter and didn’t skip a beat for the entirety of their set. A handful of DJ-booth-based sound engineers working diligently throughout their first few songs seemed to be there to ensure this was the case.

Now, about that set: Yeeeaah. Let’s just say I sought balance between taking notes and living in the moment -- Body Language would’ve wanted it that way, right?? -- which meant I was ultimately left with a mostly, shall we say, impressionistic recollection of what was a truly amazing time. I know they played ten songs, two of which were my favorites -- the dead-sexy “You Can” and discotastic “Falling Out” -- both toward the latter half of their set. I also know their third song was a new one they’d never played before. I’m pretty sure it was good and that the rest of the world will just have to wait and see. I’m about 68% sure they opened with the title track from “Social Studies” followed by “We Got Enough.” I could be wrong about that.

What I can say unequivocally is that the band delivered a full-on, high-energy performance, giving their all to some groovy, dance-worthy numbers. It was a decidedly upbeat set, which made sense for the venue and crowd, and I for one, unsuccessful note jotting aside, danced the entire time. I was a bit surprised, though, to see that from my vantage point, there were many bodies whose language was less expressive, lacking even the bobs, sways and nods one would typically expect. Maybe these folks were there for mash-up legends The Hood Internet, or for Polarsets, Lightwaves, or all of the above, and were simply tired by the time Body Language hit the stage. (Indeed, epic ATG lineup was epic!) Or maybe these were the regulars of UHall, a venue well known for its DJ-friendly setup and on-your-feet pro-dancing ethos and concomitant lack of lounge-friendly furnishings.  

Sound-system-wise, expectations were high. You too may have heard the whispers: UHall’s 40,000 watts of smooth, unadulterated, hurts-so-good, bone-marrow-shaking BASS is the stuff of DJ lore and clubber legend and is easily the best sound system in the city if not the region. I’ve personally heard (or rather, felt) it for verification on several occasions. So you can imagine my surprise when Body Language, which I was ready to hear piped through speakers bearing all the subtlety of Thor’s thunderhammer, sounded more or less like any typical band at any typical venue. Perhaps the PA system for bands is on a different setup than the one their DJs use. Whatever the case, I was left longing for an extra ton or two of bass in my face.

That said, the crowd was so chill and friendly, the sound so crisp and clear, and the tunes just oh so fresh, that all criticisms of this wonderful night at DC’s most welcomed dance venue (whose infamous $5 PHO DOGS I’d be remiss not to mention) are merely nitpicks for a critic’s critic. So do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for new shows and more from this promising young band; we certainly know we will.