All photos: Greg Szeto
An odd night to say the least. Two solo openers that relied heavily on iPod-beats to move bodies versus two bands using traditional instruments with ear-shattering consequences. These evolutions of the spastic electronified rock that characterized many Wham City acts has morphed into a more “adult” realm of music with booty-shaking club influence weighing heavy on the proceedings. The contrast is marked: the wide-eyed innocence and playfulness of Dan Deacon’s tunes meets the bump-and-grind, down and dirty.
Shams peddles his tonic well, selling his heavily distorted vocals through twin mics and iPod-backing tracks with a somewhat ritualistic spectacle of a live show, complete with amulet, and various charms. Overtones of amateur voodoo shaman-ism, more for fear factor than any sort of true belief, echo in his vacant, ironic and subtle-as-a-freight-train lyrics: “I want to cut your face / while I’m fucking you.” Yet something was strangely compelling about the sensationalized violence and misogyny that made it all work. Maybe it is just the charm of depravity with a wink and a smile.
I found Pictureplane’s music was a harder sell (but clearly I was in the minority amidst the sweaty and dancing crowd). Much heavier club and dub sounds filled this set, heavy beats that were easy to move to. The fact that the house lights were cut, leaving on flashes and LED strips to light the way, didn’t hurt with the immersion either. I think living in Baltimore has us spoiled though, as I kept thinking I was listening to a sub-par Bmore Club DJ you would find on any given weeknight. While he no doubt dropped some smoking-hot cuts, these moments of dance-floor bliss were too few amidst a sea of shallow replicas.
HEALTH provided no small racket, their primal rhythms and screeching vocals hitting hard and fast. But they seemed a pale shadow of themselves from their Ottobar performance a little over a year ago, and their luster was dulled. I think they would be well served by some time off the road, to recharge their electricity. The exaggerated swings of their guitars and flailing spasms seemed little more than half-hearted artifice. Still, underneath such a din HEALTH didn’t seem so out of place with the previous two openers, most of their songs possessing strong tribal dance circle rhythms that can sway bodies.
Double Dagger however, was the odd man out. Funnily enough, they possessed far and away the best bass lines of the night, yet they are the furthest removed from dance fare. But with Nolen as front-man, I don’t think there will ever be a lackluster DD show. Bruce’s frenzied bass and Denny’s frantic drumming only add fuel to the fire. As Bruce’s bass cut out mid-song, Nolen finished the verse before apologizing and positing the hypothetical: “maybe we should’ve played with iPods like everyone else.” Considering what came before, I think it was clear that the answer to this is a resounding “no.” I walked away from the night a little disoriented by the shifting styles, and not quite sure what to make of the line-up. I was only sure that I had had my fill of iPod-backed acts, but could listen and watch Double Dagger another ten times before drifting to sleep.