Hi Lo-Fang

Matthew Hemerlein returns to D.C. for a post-Lorde hometown show

Matthew Hemerlein will perform as Lo-Fang at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue next weekend, for a concert not two months since the pop musician’s debut at Echostage.

“It was nice to play someplace I’d never even been before,” says Hemerlein, who opened for Lorde. “It’s great to see new places opening in D.C.”

lo-fang matthew hamerlein

Lo-Fang

(Photo by Grant Singer)

Those aren’t merely idle words from an itinerant musician, one who also expects next weekend “to see lots of familiar faces and hang out a little bit,” adding for good measure: “I love D.C.”

In fact, the 30-year-old Hemerlein grew up outside Columbia, Md., and lived in D.C. as recently as two years ago. Back then the singing multi-instrumentalist was regularly making the rounds of local performance spaces and open-mike spots — as well as doing the occasional good deed, such as modeling and promoting a designer T-shirt to benefit the Human Rights Campaign’s marriage-equality work. “I really respect the movement and everything that they’re working towards,” says Hemerlein, who’s straight.

Hemerlein’s sound merges his strings-heavy classical upbringing with modern-day pop, which started generating international buzz years ago, most notably in Iceland. “For such a small place, it’s amazing that so many world-class people come from out of that culture,” says Hemerlein, who was tapped to play the heralded Iceland Airwaves music festival in 2011 and stayed on in Reykjavik afterward to soak up the sonic air. In addition to the Nordic country’s pop patron saint Bjork, you can also hear austere electronic influences from Icelandic acts GusGus and Sigur Ros on the Lo-Fang set Blue Film. For that absorbing debut album released earlier this year, Hemerlein worked with Australian producer Francois Tetaz, best known for his Grammy Award-winning work with Gotye.

After hearing an early copy of Blue Film, Lorde, the New Zealand teenager born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, handpicked Hemerlein for her first U.S. tour, and even sang with him onstage. But any future plans with Lorde or anyone else will have to wait. Hemerlein’s sole focus at the moment is on his own headlining U.S. tour, performing with two supporting musicians.

“I’m going to be playing lots of instruments onstage,” he says. “There’s going to be a certain level of improvisation that we weren’t really able to do at the Lorde show.”

Lo-Fang performs Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m., at

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 day of. Call 202-408-3100 or visit sixthandi.org.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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