On May 8th at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, Dijon delivered an intimate show that began without an opener. That was probably a delight for the people who had been queuing many hours for the concert, and who were now packed tightly in anticipation in the 1,200 capacity room.
Dijon and his band walked on stage nonchalantly and sat down behind tables cluttered with mixing boards and sound equipment. Scattered among the cables, the musicians were lit by candlelight. It looked as if the experience of making Dijon’s debut album, Absolutely, was brought to a live setting. With the equipment separating them from the audience, some feeling of connection was lost, but a unique experience took its place. Instead of attending a concert, it felt like you were looking in from the outside, witnessing a private moment. The members did not seem like they were performing for the audience, but were rather sharing their process of creating the music.
There was no drummer for this show (a positive covid test?) This made the experience all the more personal and intimate. By Dijon’s side was Michael Gordon on guitar, more popularly known as Mk.gee. His 70s shag hairstyle added an aura of coolness to the band.
They opened with “Big Mike’s,” which had a slow groove with a repeating melody line that the crowd sang back. This went on for multiple minutes, putting the audience in a trance-like state.
Overall, the music was swampy and slow. The warmth of the guitars filled the space, yet carved out a place for Dijon’s voice to cut through. Even without a drummer, the audience bobbed their heads along to the r&b infused songs. In between them, Dijon sipped on Throat Coat tea and commented on the fact that he was losing his voice. Despite the state of his vocal cords, he put his whole heart into every performance. The rasp only added to the raw emotion of his singing.
Dijon continued with “Drunk,” which described two girls in the crowd a bit too literally. Intoxicated yells echoed throughout the venue as they stumbled and laughed. Their enthusiasm seemed out of place at the concert.
Dijon does not make anthemic songs where the audience sings every word back. His vocal phrasings tend to be more ambiguous and he changes them often. Whether it was due to the energy of the music, Philly crowds, or the absence of a drummer, there was not much dancing that night — “Many Times,” the single off of his debut album was the closest the crowd got. They chanted the lyrics “strawberry, raspberry, candlelight / satellite, television, x-ray vision” passionately.
The band ended with “Rodeo Clown,” an angry yet tender breakup song. Dijon got up from behind the mixing board for the first time and kneeled at the front of the stage. The audience leaned into the closeness, mesmerized by his presence. Someone yelled out, “I miss her” and the crowd chuckled. A line everyone sang louder than the rest was “I still wear the t-shirt that you gave me.”
For the encore, the band ended with the same song they started with, returning to trance-like melodic motifs. “Big Mike’s” tied the enchanting show together nicely.