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Heading to the ‘Finnish’ Line

If the light show that accompanied Architecture in Helsinki’s opening song at the all-ages Irving Plaza was any indication, it was going to be a wildly colorful performance. Using instruments as varied as a steel drum and trombone, to congas and a sampler, the Melbourne, Australia-bred group happily jangled their way through frenzied, danceable numbers. When keyboardist Kellie Sutherland belted out her lyrics in “Nothing’s Wrong” and sounded exactly like an early Madonna, the crowd quickly took the frenetic dancing up a notch.

“We understand CMJ stands for Country Music Jamboree,” Apples in Stereo lead singer and music festival veteran Robert Schneider joked, by way of introduction. It was far from country, but the band certainly played some down-home Beatles-esque rock from their forthcoming album, New Magnetic Wonder. Lanky guitarist John Hill had a permanent open-mouthed smile on his face as the Denver band plowed through hearty power chords and heavy drums, and the band spent the end of their set in an improvised jam session with additional guitars from guest Steve Moore.

The Blow, meanwhile, took it up a major theatrical notch. You know that karaoke routine you practice in the bedroom mirror when no one is looking? The Blow’s Khaela Maricich does that for a living, and in front of thousands of people. There were several snickers from the audience when she began her mix of pop vocals, spoken word and aerobic ’80s dance moves over beats that would make Too Short blush, but after a few songs, most found it hard to resist her charm. Thanks to her hilarious one-liners about boys who never called coupled and her awkward shimmy — somewhere between the Robot and the Running Man — Maricich clearly valued humor over pride. Vancouver’s Shapes and Sizes ran through a set of melodic, moody pop, often sharing vocal duties and whistling the final notes of a song. STORY BY EMILY YOUSSEFF. PHOTOS BY ERIC NOWELS