For sometime ago I coined a sub-genre of music to classify indie-pop bands that have large full band sing-a-longs with hand claps and often use large cardboard cut outs that appear to have been draw by children as stage decorations. These bands invoke images of childlike happiness and glee. This sub-genre is called kitsch-pop. Tilly and the Wall are the proverbial James Brown’s of kitsch-pop. For years I have watched this band throw confetti, parade out on stage like a frat from Stomp the Yard, and play along with the audience. But over time it felt like they had reached a plateau. How can a band that solicits carefree immaturity progress and grow?
On Sunday at Monolith, Tilly and the Wall reached new heights and gave a performance that felt completely fresh, kitsch included.
On this year’s o, Tilly and the Wall incorporated more of a traditional percussion sound with a full drum kit and less emphasis on the signature tap dancer Jamie Pressnall. At first this would seem to take away from what makes Tilly and the Wall the James Brown’s they are. However, when they took the stage Pressnall stepped up onto a large tap platform and became the focal point of the show. Tilly and the Wall have gone even further over the top with their live show. Vocalist Kianna Alaird looked like a character from Zoobilee Zoo, Neely Jenkins donned platinum blonde hair and a dress that was straight out of Strawberry Shortcake, and guitarist Derek Pressnall could have easily been mistake for a member of Oingo Boingo. Overall, the band’s stage set up appeared to have been inspired by the 80’s cartoon Jem and decorated exclusively from Oriental Trading Company.
Tilly and the Wall came out to their signature stomp and clap parade yelling, “Monolith let’s fuck it up!” followed by “Cacophony.” After the first song the crowd of roughly a thousand people were in a frenzied party atmosphere in front of the New Belgium stage. Next up was “Beat Control,” which made us of preprogrammed drum beats, a live drummer, and of course tap dancing. The middle of the song featured a tap/drum off that showed how tap dancing can hold it’s own against the convention of a drum kit.
During “Night of the Living Dead” the band proved how valuable it was to add a drummer when they went into the refrain, “I wanna fuck it up” the high hat and kick drum gave the song a bigger and fuller sound. On the other hand, during “Pot Kettle Black” it was Jamie Pressnall who was carrying the beat.
The rest of the band’s set featured choreography from the female members of the group, beach balls, and a fat black man with a Mohawk and a black, lime green, hot pink, and yellow leotard with wings dancing to “The Freest Man.” Many aspects of their performance were over the top, but at no point did it feel cliché and ultimately that’s what makes them kitschy.