EL VY impresses past expectations of a side-project


Kelly Wynne, Editor-In-Chief

As an alternative music fan, there’s nothing more I love than Matt Berninger. Primarily known for his role as lead singer of indie-rock band The National, Berninger’s voice has and will echo in the hearts of listeners for decades. That’s why I was immediately drawn to his side project El VY, a whimsical band he made for fun with friend and business partner Brent Knopf, best known for his roles in Menomena and Ramona Falls.

EL VY visited Metro on April 17, selling out the 1,100 capacity venue in just a couple of days. I expected the crowd to be older; the National has a middle-aged following, and I figured the fans would be an overflow. I didn’t realize how right I was: I was easily one of the youngest in attendance. The crowd ranged from around 24 to 55. It was obvious I stuck out as a “child,” given that when the band covered Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam,” a tipsy 30-something woman turned to me, asked my age, and asked if I even knew the song. Her friends and her then turned to leave, yelling, “enjoy your youth!”

Though I felt a bit out of place in the crowd, I felt the most out of place during the opening act, Mucca Pazza, a full-fledged marching band with a whimsical, almost trippy aura. The giant band barely fit on the stage, but that only added to their purposely-clumsy performance, more theatrical than anything. It was unlike anything I’d seen before, and for that reason I’ll remember it, but that doesn’t mean I’ve added them to my Spotify playlist.

When EL VY finally took the stage, they opened with one of my favorites, “Careless,” the last track on their debut album. Followed by “It’s A Game,” the two slow tracks, centered on fictional character “Didi,” sounded exactly like the album versions, varying very little in instrumental texture. It wasn’t until more instrumentally forceful tracks that I truly got a feel for who the band is live.

“Sad Case” provided that loud rock edge that I was looking for. The crowd bopped along and mouthed the lyrics but their true energy stayed hidden until “Return To The Moon,” the band’s hit song, placed strangely in the middle of the setlist. “I’m The Man To Be,” followed suit, a clear cult-favorite due to whimsical lyrics, like “I’m a hanging happy sock tonight,” and lyrics that borderline raunchy and just plain weird. All 1,100 in attendance screamed along.

As I expected, Berninger made the show, not only with his powerful, captivating vocals, but with his odd personality and stage presence to fit. His voice was pure and mystifying like any track he’s sang on. His movements were dorky and seemingly unnecessary, from his strange dance moves to the way he hunched over his microphone to sing at an extremely odd angle. At one point he paused to say “We should have toured. The first time we were here no one knew the lyrics. You guys are great. Thank you for singing along.” He then paused, realizing he had an earpiece in and continued, “Actually, I have this thing in my ear. I can’t hear if you’re singing along. Nevermind.”

Berninger interacted with fans by letting those in the front row sing into the mic, but impressed when he jumped onto the floor and danced through the crowd of fans for the entirety of the final song “Need A Friend.” It should be noted that to do this, he knocked over half of the equipment on stage with the wire from his microphone.

EL VY fosters a fan-friendly, home-like environment with comforting tunes and Berninger’s angelic voice to compliment. I expected nothing more than their super-casual stage presence, but they did this in a way that made 1,100 people feel like close friends in someone’s living room. It was truly a gift.

You can listen to EL VY on our Courier Spotify.