The Funky Buddha
Friday, June 1, 2012
Better than: All of the pro button pushers calling themselves DJs these days.
Lately, I find myself less and less inclined to make the trip across the county line and all the way up to Boca for a show. But, when I heard that my favorite member of my favorite band was coming to South Florida with his solo project, it was hard to pass up the drive, even if it was cutting into my Miami Heat playoff viewing time. But, when rooting for the home team transitioned into a painful bloodbath before the fourth quarter of the game on the Celtics' turf even began, it was time to cut my losses Friday night.
I slugged back a Red Bull and hit the road to the Funky Buddha, a venue that I've frequented plenty in the past few years. But, things had changed since this Miami girl's last fieldtrip north. It seemed like I didn't know 75 percent of the newbie scenesters mingling al fresco, and due to the careless behavior of the night's patrons, the bartenders opted to keep the swanky glassware out of the picture.
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Praised drummer of the Disco Biscuits, Allen Aucoin hit the stage with his drumkit and his station of gadgets including an effects board and a laptop right around midnight. Aucoin's solo moniker, DrFameus was all on his own, unlike the last time I saw him at March's AURA Fest 3, just outside of Orlando. There, he was joined by a talented electro producer buddy named Drizno, and a couple of artist cameos. This time, it was just the powerhouse himself, which made the show that much more enjoyable.
From the get-go, Aucoin's housey backbeats (which he produces all on his own, with a tad of mentoring from Drizno), spacey synths, and spiritual sound bytes remained just a thin, humming foundation for him to layer drumming atop. Center stage to the cacophony was Aucoin's showcase of pulsations, and the crowd was hooked within the first five minutes of the production. Aucoin bounced around in his seat, dancing like an antsy, ADD kid who couldn't sit still in math class. Maintaining focus, occasionally smirking, he never missed a beat.
Eyes closed, it was hard to believe just one human was responsible for the entire live performance, but then again, Aucoin is known to admirers as a "half-man, half-machine," and with good reason. His robotic-like precision and mechanical form are stunning to the eye. It was hard to comprehend exactly what he was doing and how, but if you concentrated on his movements and fell into his rhythm, it became familiar to follow his patterns. In his mind - which might very well contain some sort of computer chip like The Terminator - he calculated every move, always ahead of the audience, who watched in awe. Some stood still, with jaws dropped to the floor, just glued to the maniac whose murderous skills fell in line with the blood red lighting that bounced off his matching mane and the crimson backdrop behind him. Others flailed out of control, dancing for what felt like the last drummer left on planet Earth. The most amazing part about DrFameus' show was that there was no yearning for other instruments. The backtracks were subtle, but his drumming was a smorgasbord of melody, rhythm, and solo action all packed into one explosive parcel.
With the sly rotation of a knob, the set transitioned from fathomable to incomprehensible. Synth destruction and striking that clocked in easily over 120 beats per minute switched the vibe of the entire show. It was at that point I remembered (once again) I was hooked on Aucoin's drug of drumming, staring wide-eyed and in awe of his remarkable skillset. I realized Aucoin was not performing with any Edrum pads, and that blew my mind all over again. One tiny man was making organic beats, moving speedily with his hands and feet, blurring the lines of computerized beat machines or any fancy drumming tech toys. And with the spotlight shining on Aucoin, and Aucoin alone, the appreciation for his forte reached greater heights. As part of the Disco Biscuits, I've always felt Aucoin motivated the jams, but without the shadows and sounds of three other artists on his stage, the distinction was amplified.
Integrating breakbeats and attacking drum and bass, one track somehow remained balanced with so many different elements. His trickery was taking some ambient or midtempo animal, and lacing it with his own style of flawless, racing thumps. As Aucoin took a break to hydrate and greet the crowd, birthday wishes made their way to the stage. Aucoin's energy was palpable at his birthday show, and the trance hung thick like an invisible, yet addictive haze. "It's officially my birthday," he smiled. "We'll do shots later." He was all business.
One of the highlights of the night was his new track with working title "Sutta," a platter of sounds bettered by Aucoin's livestep artistry. It featured the Beastie Boys track "Check It Out," and Dali Lama chants from "The Heart Sutta," along with some throaty vocals that sounded like human didgeridoos. And as he drummed dubstep to the intimate crowd, thoughts raced through my mind cursing the electro trend and its drab womp fathers, but at the same time, Aucoin took the genre above and beyond stereotypes, branding it with his own version of originality.
Familiar samples faded in and out, timed as if to remind everyone that the live action was the main event. Bits of Fergie's "London Bridge" were recognizable in DrF's "London Funk," but were hard to make out because, well, it simply didn't matter beyond the deep, jazzy taps. "KB Superstar" featured vocal samples from Aucoin's Berklee co-alum Kristina Bennett, acting as a sultry and earthy canvas for him to accent.
There was no focus on a set list or any politics surrounding a band. It was simply the celebration of a one-man throwdown in all its glory. The crowd was blanketed with funky stank faces, as hands air drummed trying to match the main man, but nothing really seemed to matter outside of perfecting one's own version of the robot jive.
Personal bias: As a dedicated fan of the Disco Biscuits, and more specifically of Aucoin's work, it's really difficult for me to slam this show in any way, shape or form. But, I have seen other tDB side projects, and none have left a lasting impression quite like DrFameus.
Random thought: If you're 7 feet tall, don't stand in the front row. Don't hoist your mediocre female friend on the stage to dance, and don't drip your gallons of sweat on the normal sized people. Hang back and act a fool by the wallflowers instead.
Overheard in the crowd: "Watching Allen play like this makes me picture him as a child on his first drumkit, when he first picked up his drumsticks. He must've been smiling and killin' it then, too."
By the way: It's possible to have an awesome time at a show without imbibing. It's also much more fun to people watch and note all the ridiculous details. Even if you are the only one who appreciates it.