About 20 minutes after British “dark pop” buzzbaby Charli XCX finished her brief set Wednesday night inside Doug Fir Lounge a twentysomething woman to my right asked aloud if anyone had a pen.
We were waiting in a poorly formed line to congratulate the 20-year-old Brit on her captivating performance. “I do,” I answered, passing the fan a blue, dime a dozen pen that, as a reporter, I always keep on me out of habit. It worked, she exclaimed after writing on her hand.
A few minutes passed before Charli XCX’s attention turned to the woman who had my pen and her friends. At this point, I thought they were going to ask the singer to sign a set list or a ticket stub, as I had planned.
Wrong. Wednesday turned out to be my anonymous pen’s breakout.
The young woman and her female friend each took turns pulling their tops down enough to expose the upper reaches of their breasts. Charli XCX graciously scribbled her name across one woman’s breasts, and then did the same for her friend. After it was over, the woman I lent the pen to returned it, as promised.
I mean, what do you say? I grinned and thanked her. It’s hard enough writing on one’s hand with those pens, much less one’s breasts. It was a weird Portland moment. What was her thought process? Maybe something like, “No one has a Sharpie. Ahh, screw it. Let’s just use an ink pen. Yeah, that’ll last.”
I pulled out the “legendary” blue pen five minutes later when I asked Charli XCX to sign my ticket. She obliged and then took a minute or two to chit-chat. She did the same with everyone who asked to take a picture with her, talk with her, or even give her a hug.
Charli XCX put on the kind of energetic, passionate performance that recalled Janet Jackson taking a kickboxing class (or a younger Robyn). She punched the air, bounced across the stage, and thrashed her dark black hair from side to side. She wore a midriff-bearing, cut-off black T-shirt, purple tights with another black clothing item tied around her waist, and five-inch goth boots that resembled rollerblades minus the wheels.
After leading the crowd of 100 or so in an improvised cardio workout set to music with massive, throbbing beats Charli XCX exited the stage. She only played for 35 to 40 minutes. However, her set oozed the passion, charisma, and potential that undoubtedly led Coldplay to tap her as an opening artist during its European tour this summer. Her second-to-last song, “Grins”, off her Heartbreaks and Earthquakes mixtape, was/is THE JAM! It reminded me of a less jarring Sleigh Bells cut.
“Charli, Charli, Charli,” the small but fervent crowd chanted after she, her synth player, and drummer left the stage.
What they received instead of an encore was a visit from Charli. At first it was unclear whether she had a friend or two in the audience she sought out. Then, it became clear she was welcoming to everyone, and the audience that remained gravitated around her.
It might sound odd, but while I enjoyed the show the unexpected meet and greet afterward made a bigger impression on me – just the lack of pretense she exhibited. Oh, and I learned cheap blue pens can sign all sorts of body parts. Good to know for my impending rock stardom.