It was clear from the moment they bounded onstage sporting side parts and matching short-sleeved, printed navy button-ups, and it only got clearer when they introduced their opener, “Hail to the Bop,” with a sound effect resembling Mario nabbing some gold coins. By the time giddy keyboardist Tommy Grace began bouncing up and down behind his synthesizer, arms at his sides, there was no mistaking it: The four clean-cut Scotsmen of Django Django are the most delightful bunch of squares — and in-demand whiz kids — now working the indie-rock circuit. On Saturday night at a sold-out 9:30 Club, Washington got its first taste of the calculatedly ornate yet groovy stylings of Django Django.
The band first turned heads in 2009 with its debut single, “Storm.” The rock equivalent of an awkward silence then ensued, as the newly formed ensemble had no other recorded music to release. But Django Django recovered splendidly with a sprinkling of singles over the next few years and the release of its fizzy, funky self-titled debut album in January 2012. Cracking some best-of-2012 album lists, “Django Django” had an eclectic DNA — incorporating influences that range from Beach Boys-style surf-rock harmonies to stuttering, cerebral synth-pop a la Devo, to the guitar-jangling dreamscape quirk of the Shins of several years back.
The flannel-clad, mostly young concertgoers Saturday at first hailed to the bop, as instructed, by swaying and nodding along appreciatively. Restraint fell by the wayside, though, three songs in. Shimmies and arm-twirls erupted when singer-guitarist Vincent Neff and bassist Jimmy Dixon joined Grace at the synthesizers for an epic, bleeping and blooping breakdown tacked onto the end of “Waveforms.” The scene looked like a trio of cheerful sound engineers successfully hijacking a thumping electro-house festival set.
Django Django displayed its danceable musical smarts, from burbling bass lines that Stevie Wonder would dig (“Firewater”) to the otherworldly vocal harmonies so tinkered with and polished that they sounded, ironically, effortless (“Storm”). Yet this wasn’t so much a master class as a glorious celebration. By the time Neff shouted to the crowd: “Are you ready go to up with us? Up, up, up, and over?” audience members were visibly ready to do just that. Hands shot up and breezed side to side as Neff repeated: “Over? Over? Over!” As the band unleashed the snake-charmer melody of “Skies Over Cairo,” hips and shoulders swiveled throughout the club. More than a few hieroglyph-style, King Tut-esque bent wrists rose up in unembarrassed glory. Django Django’s jubilant geekery was infectious — on this night, everybody wanted to be as cool as the nerdiest guys in the room.
Fetters is a freelance writer.