Glitch Mob @ Neumos in Seattle
Guest Blogger: RYAN XRISTOPHER
Sometimes it’s hard to condense a musical experience. There are so many factors that go into whether or not you enjoy a show, to try to take them all on and talk about it cohesively is a bit of a task. So, in random order:
I showed up with my friend Leigh at about 10:50 to buy tickets.
At first glance, there were a ton of people outside, talking, smoking, wandering around. Got our tickets, stamps, and away we go …
On our way in, the set list posted had a quickly scribbled addition to the beginning of the night “Nordic Soul – 8-10”. Apparently Sean didn’t know he was playing either; didn’t know that Kev hadn’t planned on starting until 10, at least. That put DK on from 10-11, Nosaj on from 11-12, and the Glitch Mob on from 12-1:30.
Now, I’ve been prepping for a while to see this show. I’m a quasi-vocal disbeliever in dubstep and glitch hop. I’m the first to admit that I don’t necessarily get it, but I want to. For a solid amount of time now, I’ve been putting on Glitch Mob cuts for people to listen to, and they typically dive right in – “What *is this?!” – and start bopping around and make the i-love-dirty-grimy-music face. It’s not really my tempo, it’s not really my vibe, and they aren’t really my sounds.
Which is why I *absolutely made a point to come to this show, the first one I’ve been to in Seattle in quite a long time, and invite people to come with me or meet me there who dug the music. I’d even gotten a text while I was getting ready to go, from a friend who was in town. He asked what was going on that night; I told him there was only one place to be. He took me on my word, and showed up with three of his friends an hour later, meeting up with me not too long after I got there.
So anyway, to get ready for this Tuesday night, I listened to dubby, glitchy stuff every day on my computer speakers, my home setup, my headphones, my earbuds. I looked up dubstep history. I listened to every Glitch Mob or Nosaj Thing production or set I could get a hold of. I even produced a dubstep track (and named it “Fck”), just to see how it would come out. I promised myself I was going to figure out this puzzle. Too many people are excited about something I don’t understand, and that bothers the hell out of me.
Leigh and I walked in to catch the last five minutes of Daddy Kev. It was hot inside, but not miserable, and they had the doors open to try to get some air flow.
When Nosaj started playing, I remember it being mellow and a little floaty for a minute, and then my eyebrows went up a little. Bangy, smashy, chunky drum beats started raining from the speakers. I’ve listened to his album “Drift” several times, and checked in my mind as being overall pretty chill. I was not expecting this degree of rowdiness or activity from him behind whatever controller he was using (I never got a chance to look at what it was).
Right around then was when I started comprehending a little bit more of the dub/hop experience. Part of what has disinterested me musically about dubstep and glitch-hop is that, for me, there’s too much space and not enough movement. Well, here was a little bit of an ah-ha moment for me. Remember, this is the first live show of this type that I’ve been to and paid attention for real. Live, when that much bass and that much grit come out of a sound system, that space in the music lets the room boom, echo, breathe and settle. It’s like someone smacks you in the brain, and then gives you a second to say ‘ow, that hurt but I liked it’ before the next one comes. As for the movement that I feel is lacking from a lot of the tunes, that’s what the people in the room are for; they wave and wiggle to the filters and dynamics and tempo changes and edits that your performer (they’re not necessarily DJ’s anymore, are they, kids?) is – eh – performing for you.
I watched Nosaj’s crazy/edit/chaos for most of his hour. Great tunes (are they really “tunes” any more, I wonder?), warping and twisting sound into unintelligible chunks of audio nonsense, all locked into the beat. It was a definite focal moment hearing vocal audio samples of “Wandering Star”, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Portishead vocalist.
Probably 500 people there, I’d say? Which, hey, for a weekday in Seattle? Congratulations, Sean. Keep doing what you’re doing! It matters. The lights were excellent and appropriate for the music. The sound was great. I didn’t have to wear earplugs, which was a huge plus, and there were only a few moments that the snare crack hurt a little bit if you were close to the speakers.
Took a break for a bit, and then came back in when The Glitch Mob started. For their setup, there were three Lemurs on stage tilted so that the crowd could see the screens. If you don’t know what a Lemur is, it is a “multitouch and modular controller for sequencers, synthesizers, virtual instruments, VJing, and lights”. Look it up, I promise you that you’ll be impressed. Alongside the Lemurs, each of the three had what looked like a Roland (8 pad?) drum pad. There were no computers on stage, no laptops. Just the Lemurs and drum pads. I guess this is unique for them? I’m not sure.
Right when they started, I recognized one of the tunes I’d been listening to on repeat all week, though I couldn’t tell you its name offhand. I never really got up all that close to the stage, instead keeping at least halfway back and really digging into the music aspect of what was going on. I could see that what was coming from the speakers was directly related to them either playing the drum pads or messing with the touchscreens on the Lemurs. I never did figure out how they were choosing sounds and samples, if they have a predetermined setlist, or if any of performance is practiced or preset. If I ever get the chance, I’d like to ask them!
For me to get the most out of a night, I have to mix playtime with business-as-usual, so taking mental notes about the combination of music and technology is part of the process for me. I love every part of it!
And I definitely had some moments when everything came together. The sound, the lights, the vibe, the music, the heat, the boom, rip, smash, silence, crunch. Up on the back balcony for a few minutes, just letting it wash over the crowd and then me. Those are the moments that I miss from when I was just getting into the electronic dance music scene. The moments when the effort you put into going out and getting ready and prepping and understanding and puzzling – is far outweighed just by the fact of *being, and appreciating the work and artistry and time that goes not just into the music, but into the *show. Those are the moments that make me remember why I do what I do. Chase those moments, and then figure out how to give them to other people. Hrm. Anyway.
Just like with any experience, I have to say that the people I came with or met there helped make the night great. When your friends jump around and yell and wave their arms, you might as well too, even if it’s the music you don’t claim is your personal heartbeat. Dive in. It won’t bite. No one here is watching who cares what you do. The people at Neumo’s this Tuesday night came to get down, and they got down. I’m looking forward to the Decibel festival, when The Glitch Mob is back in town. I’ll be there, and I’ll be ready.
– Ryan Xristopher
Video by Ryan as well! SUPASTAR!