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Mar 2011 concert: Pogo at Chop Suey

A few months ago, a friend of mine, trying to identify a song she'd heard, posted a video on Facebook that she said was similar. That video was an amazing remix of music and sounds from Disney's Alice in Wonderland, simply called "Alice", and I thought it was fantastic. The creator of "Alice" was an artist going by the name Pogo, and I immediately downloaded as many of his songs as I could find—many of them were at the time freely available through his Last.fm site (and are now "name your price" downloads on his own site). I was very excited when I found out at the end of January that he would be on tour and stopping at Chop Suey on Thursday March 10, and put that right on my calendar. Also on the bill that evening were Absolute Madman and Lynx.

Absolute Madman is a Seattle-based DJ who played a set of very heavy dubstep. He created his own dubstep remixes of other songs, such as the theme to "Dragnet", which was pretty cool. I also liked his smooth segues from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" into the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" into, of all things, Van Halen's keyboard riff from "Jump". I wasn't quite convinced that mixing everything into the same slow dubstep beat was a great idea, the risk being that it'd sound plodding, but he did it well and it was a fun set.

Lynx is a one-woman band, playing laptop/electronics with live guitar on some songs and a floor tom on others, as well as singing and beatboxing. She started out with slow soulful contemporary R&B-style songs, doing some interesting things such as drumming in a Middle Eastern style for "Tricksters & Fools" or modifying her guitar to sound more like a balalaika. Despite that, I found myself feeling bored simply because the contemporary R&B style doesn't interest me. Lynx was obviously a talented musician and singer so I couldn't find fault with her, it was just a matter of taste. But then, unexpectedly, she did a song that was just unaccompanied beatboxing—and it was amazing! Well okay then! She did a phenomenal job imitating record-scratching, using the drum visually as her erstwhile turntable, and just blew me away. She then showed further diversity with "Shout It Out", which was more hip-hop style with rapped verses and a little beatboxing. Although not the headliner, she basically got to do an encore, finishing with another beatbox, adding a little keys to it—which she said she was trying for the first time, though she did so with aplomb. Personally I'd prefer to see her focus more on the beatboxing and hip-hop style songs, but if contemporary R&B is your thing you should check her out for that, too.

I mentioned before that I learned about Pogo because a friend was trying to identify another artist; that other artist turned out to be Passion Pit, and I decided that Pogo's song "Alice" did sound something like Passion Pit's "The Reeling" as done by Seattle electronic musician Lusine. Much of Pogo's music though has its own distinctive sound precisely because he uses music and sounds from classic musicals and Disney films, which have a certain style to them. For that night's show, these included Alice in Wonderland ("Alice"), The Sword in the Stone ("White Magic"), Mary Poppins ("Expialidocious"), Snow White ("Wishery"), and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ("Scrumdiddlyumptious"). But he also used a variety of other films too, from classics such as Casablanca to contemporary films such as The Terminator 2; several of these songs haven't been released and were being debuted on the tour. And he's also experimented with non-film sources such as recording video of his mom gardening or people out on the streets of the city, and simply creating his own music wholesale. To be clear, even on the remixes from films, he'd use words or whole phrases sometimes, but the resulting music was still entirely original, made out of bits from the soundtrack. It was also clear that he was recreating the mixes live for the concert, not just replaying the videos he'd posted to YouTube, and he intercut the videos as well without pause, one song into the next. A few songs toward the end and in the encore were on the heavy side, but mostly the music was blissful, wistful, and trippy. The whole show was really great, totally worth the wait and staying out late on a working week when I was tired and short on sleep. I'll continue to keep an eye on his site and check out songs as he releases them, and I highly recommend you do too.

I took just a couple photos of each act, not bothering to try capturing a shot of one of Pogo's videos along with Pogo (I sort of wish I had, even though I doubt it would've come out worth saving); you can see them in this set on Flickr.

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