November 7th, 2008

November 2008 concert 1: DJ Spooky at Nectar Lounge

Last Saturday night I went to Nectar Lounge to see DJ Spooky (That Subliminal Kid). I know DJ Spooky from a couple original tracks I have on compilations as well as a few remixes, and I was very curious to hear what his live show would be like. Also on this all-electronica bill were eR DoN and M'Chateau, both of whom were solo artists as well. All three built their music from sampling others—M'Chateau and DJ Spooky as DJs relying primarily on turntables and records (or CDs), eR DoN using his own original sound recordings—but each had his own style.

M'Chateau opened with a mellow chillout groove, not too loud, not too fast, but still good for relaxing or dancing. My impression was that he layered and looped different tracks and samples to create continuous dance music, borrowing parts from different songs without ever playing the full original version of his sources. When I arrived, just after M'Chateau's set began, the club was resoundingly empty, and although people gradually trickled in as he played over the next 90 minutes, only a very few people danced and not many more stood to listen. This is often the fate of the opening act, particularly if it's a DJ, but it still seemed unfortunate that he never had much of an audience. However, after eR DoN's relatively short set, there was a brief pause as the club went to prerecorded rock music, and then M'Chateau came back onstage and started playing a second set. I thought he was just filling in for a few minutes while DJ Spooky set up, and I still don't know whether that was the intention or not, but he ended up playing another 75 minutes. This time he played to a packed house that was ready to move and shake, and correspondingly his music was a little more upbeat. I enjoyed both his sets very much and was happy he got to do a second one to a large and appreciative audience.

eR DoN differed more from the other two than they did from each other. Using only a laptop, sampler, and sequencer, eR DoN crafted his own original songs from an eclectic set of instrumental sounds. Whereas M'Chateau had a continuous groove for dancing, eR DoN played distinct songs with notable shifts in tempo or instrument sounds from one to the next. The songs didn't always have obvious structures, resulting in some abrupt ends and awkward pauses before the next started, and they were really not for dancing, despite the best efforts of a lone goth to prove otherwise. Also, it was a little weird to watch the performance, as there was no obvious correlation between the sight of eR DoN busily pressing buttons or twisting knobs and the music being produced. However, the songs were enjoyable to listen to, and reminded me of Tortoise or Brokeback although not being very similar. I did enjoy the set and it made for a good contrast to the other two DJs without being too different to fit in to the evening.

DJ Spooky did not start his set until 12:30 AM, which at first made me feel slightly disgruntled: starting so late, he'd get only about an hour or so at most to play. It wasn't until I checked the time well after the first hour was over and saw that, impossibly, it was 1:15 AM, that I remembered this was the night Daylight Saving Time ended and realized that we were in fact getting over two hours of DJ Spooky. Like M'Chateau, Spooky played a continuous set of music, but he seemed to focus more on playing and remixing singles, though I only recognized a few tunes in the mix. I was particularly excited when he dropped "Message in a Bottle" by the Police into the mix. However, he only played it through the first two verses/choruses before extended the bridge as an outro, leaving out the final hopeful verse, and it kind of broke my heart a little—but also inspired me to listen through my entire Police collection later that weekend, which I hadn't done in far too long. The first half of Spooky's set tended to be on the rock and hip-hop side, while in the second half he moved into soul, jazz, and reggae as he featured his work in progress, a tribute to Stax Records featuring footage and audio from the documentary film Wattstax. The whole set was very cool and kept me and a lot of the audience dancing throughout. I'm glad that I did not miss this opportunity to see DJ Spooky in action, and I hope to see him again.

I grabbed a few photos of DJ Spooky spinning his songs, you can see them here

Coming up this Sunday Nov. 9, Halou presents Stripmall Architecture, a new experimental project by the group, at Nectar Lounge. I don't really know what that is but it should be interesting. In a couple weeks, My Brightest Diamond are at the Triple Door on Wednesday Nov. 19; I may skip that show as my budget's getting tight. However I will certainly be at two other shows that week: Yeasayer at Neumos on Thursday Nov. 20, and Minus the Bear with Annuals at the Showbox at the Market on Saturday Nov. 22. I'll have to give a good look through the calendars for December soon, as due to holiday travel I won't have much time to catch a show (whether here or back East), but let me mention again that Hotels are playing the Comet Tavern on Sunday December 7, and they deserve your love and could use your support.