Magdalena Bay brings extraterrestrial pop to Cornerstone Berkeley 

photo of a Magdelena Bay concert
Can Jozef Saul/Staff

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Hailing from Los Angeles’ viral music scene, Magdalena Bay is an up-and-coming indie pop band whose music has gained notoriety for its catchy and irresistibly fun sound. The band is composed of producer Matthew Lewin and singer-songwriter Mica Tenenbaum, whose vocals and high energy led their performance at Cornerstone Berkeley Nov. 10.

Like many of their LA-based peers, their overall sound follows what often comes from the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX — whose track “Unlock It” filled the room prior to the duo’s entrance. Following a DJ set by Negative Gemini, the growing crowd was sufficiently hyped for a high-energy performance, which Magdalena Bay undoubtedly delivered. 

Smoke began to fill the air in anticipation of Lewin and Tenenbaum’s entrance, only for Lewin to walk slowly across the stage prior to any formal introduction. Despite this lackluster first-look, when Tenenbaum appeared from backstage the room lit up entirely, the anxious crowd gave a deafening roar of excitement. All that came before simply washed away, and it is no exaggeration to say that the entire venue was simply entranced by the pair. 

The band opened with the title track of their latest album, Mercurial World, playing to the interstellar sound and themes that the song explores. They appeared dressed in costumes that could’ve come straight out of an ’80s alien flick, coinciding with their overall sound, which seems heavily influenced by the decade. 

The stage, however, was almost entirely bare. Nothing but a clear, inflatable chair sat behind the band as they performed, which seemed like a missed opportunity. Small props or other inflatable gear could’ve enhanced the ambiance of the performance, offering the band a chance at more interaction with the crowd. It is likely, however, that this was a budgetary decision and not a creative one. 

Even still, as the concert progressed Tenenbaum and Lewin seemed to double each other’s energy levels; when Lewin straddled his guitar, the crowd went wild and the pair danced in reckless unison. The charisma that they share undeniably translated to the audience, who joined in on the jumping and jiving happening onstage. The crowd’s intensity toward the middle of Magdalena Bay’s set speaks to the fun, ethereal and accessible nature of their music — which is almost impossible to resist when it was performed with such passion. 

There’s a certain pristine and polished quality to their music that one might imagine wouldn’t translate very well to a live setting, but the pair seem to have found a way to maintain that “perfect” pop sound in-concert. 

As seen at Cornerstone Berkeley, the band is adept at using their pop sound and form to their advantage. At some of the highest points in the night, Tenenbaum rushed to the edge of the stage to greet clumped concert-goers and passed the mic between herself and them. “Killshot” — a track off the duo’s 2020 EP — was played in this way, and a combination of its instantly recognizable nature and online virality made it perfect for the crowd to join-in on. 

These moments were key, and offered some necessary dynamics to their set, which was almost always at full-throttle. The absence of any slower or more down-tempo tracks on the setlist may have surprised audience members unfamiliar with Magdalena Bay, but fans and casual listeners know that their works are known for their rave or club-like sound. It’s a gift at times, but a detriment at others. 

At once, audiences were treated to a performance that seemed to never halt, never slowed down — but in reality this is difficult to sustain. Reaching the end of the set, there was a feeling of exhaustion looming onstage and in the crowd, which could be a result of a combination of the set’s length and intensity. 

Despite this, the general feeling when Magdalena exited the stage was one of satisfaction. Tenenbaum and Lewin delivered a performance that lived-up to the quality of their musical recordings, even if it didn’t quite have a range to match. 

Contact Ryan Garay at [email protected].