We've been racking our brain but have yet to find an analogue for OWL CITY, the only rock band we can recall to perform live without use of a single amplifier. (Someone only half in jest suggested that perhaps they don't travel with amps because they can't physically lift them.) In their defense, rock accoutrements are completely superfluous to OC's brand of pristine, frictionless digi-pop. At the Lansdowne on Monday night, kicking off WFNX's week-long "Disorientation" freebie concert series, Adam Young did hold a an electric guitar -- played it, at times; with distortion, even -- but he's not against piping in pre-recorded acoustic guitar from an offstage laptop. If you happened to be standing in front of the PA, what you heard sounded seamlessly melded between live and pre-recorded elements. But standing off to the side of the stage could be awkward: on the trio's opening song, most of the drums were of the machine variety, with the live drummer adding only a few extra splash hits. It was an empty, low-energy start to a show that evolved into something far sweeter, mostly on the merits of the band's weightless, lovelorn synthpop epiphanies and their aw-shucks shyness.
Despite the obvious differences, it's hard not to draw a dotted line between Owl City's "10,000 lightning bugs" and Magnetic Fields' "100,000 Fireflies." Of course, Owl City is ramping up to a level of success that obliterates the old distinctions between indie and pop -- so that even while OC were performing the show for our sister station WFNX, there was Someone There from Kiss-108, which is expected to follow the lead of other Top 40 stations nationwide in adding the insidiously catchy "Fireflies" to its playlist.
Above: Owl City perform the hit. Below: "Vanilla Twilight."