The Glitch Mob
With Com Truise and Phantogram
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Better Than: Waiting until Langerado to see the headliners
If you could bottle up and sell a drug-free psychedelic experience, a Glitch Mob show dose would be pricey and worth every penny. The electronic act's headlining show at Revolution last night was a loopy, heady trip through light and sound that never got boring.
That's despite the lack of usual band-style tricks like, you know,
singers and instruments. Rather, the Los Angeles-based trio has created
an entire audio-visual show through clever lighting, staging, and yes,
an electronic form of live performance, that packs an emotional wallop
and keeps its set humming from start to finish.
It's the kind of clever performance design that opener Com Truise should probably study. The one-man act, born Seth Haley, gave the only performance of the evening that really failed to ignite the room. His brand of downtempo, ice-cold, almost New Romantic electronic music sounds dreamy amplified live. The effect was the same as just listening to it on an iPod, though.
Haley spent his entire set basically clicking laptop buttons and tapping away on his (enviable!) Cat synthesizer, and when the lighting went dark on him halfway through the set, it didn't really matter. Perhaps in the future, Haley should take a page from Ernest Greene's Washed Out book, and beef up his theater shows with extra musicians for interest.
Nonetheless, he was rewarded by a remarkably respectful crowd. Though the audience members didn't seem particularly revved up by Com Truise, they kept their mouths shut and still respectfully clapped after each number in a rare, impressive display of South Floridian show etiquette.
Phantogram, afterwards, fared even better. Though the upstate New York act began as a duo, for this tour, at least, it's added a dedicated drummer and boasts an even warmer, more powerfully room-filling blend of its introspective, airy electro-pop. Live, keyboardist/vocalist Sarah Barthel was cool-girl perfection personified in a creaseless green pencil skirt and a shiny bob haircut that magically always fell back precisely into place.
Meanwhile, Barthel's breathy, ethereal voice recalls such greats like Cocteau Twins' Elisabeth Fraser, and overall, live, the Phantogram effect is one of a 4AD dreamwave band updating its technology. It's sexy without being sexual ... so maybe that's what prompted one female fan to climb a friend's shoulders and flash the band.
Wait, what? Yes, this was a markedly enthusiastic crowd. So if shirts were coming off during a band as buttoned-up as Phantogram, it's not surprising that the moment the Glitch Mob went on, at precisely 11:15 p.m., that the light toy-wielding party people in the crowd proceeded to lose. Their. Shit.
It helped, of course, that the group's new stage setup famously boasts design by Martin Phillips and John McGuire, a.k.a. the guys who did Daft Punk's and then Kanye West's most famous pyramid-style lighting. Though this tour brings the group to smaller venues than those in which the designers usually work, their creation is no less dramatic.
Each of the group members -- Boreta, edIT, and Ooah -- got his own riser, flanked by alien-like towers of stadium lights. At their waist levels, some of their fun tools, like the super-futuristic Lemur touch-pad Midi controller, were helpfully pointed towards the audience, drawing viewers into the live aspect of the performance. Then, across the back of the stage was a gigantic wall of smaller, square screens, which alternately flashed with abstract, video-game like designs and snatches of pure color.
All was triggered in sync with the group's unabashedly cinematic compositions which, through a set lasting an hour and a half, had plenty of time to unroll an entire spectrum of feeling. Most Glitch Mob songs build to super-charged crescendoes of midtempo breakbeats and synth, and it's overpowering, displacing, and almost disconcerting, except that the entire effect is markedly warm.
And though much of the material is technically vocal-less, it's hard to notice. The group had carefully picked a set list so that just when a lull might begin, out would come a heavy-hitting hip-hop cut-up or a Daft Punk rework. As glowstick-bedazzled bohemian girls waved their illuminated arms like gigantic jellyfish, Glitch Mob wisely played into the dance-ready atmosphere with a big handful of elections from their mixtapes. This meant selections like the Drake- and Jay-Z-sampling "Haters" collage, at one point, and a remix of Nas' "Made You Look" later on.
Still, they saved the biggest party trick for the selections from the group's newest EP, We Can Make the World Stop, released yesterday. If the flashing strobes, zig-zagging keyboard lines, and jagged post-hip-hop beats weren't outer-space enough, out came a scantily clad aerialist.
About halfway through the set, and then again on the penultimate selection, he pint-size, pure-muscle performer shimmied up a set of silks dropped down from the ceiling. She managed aerial splits, flips, and other tricks to the trance-inducing soundtrack before wrapping herself and dropping back down at jaw-dropping, almost scary speed.
Not even the very last encore number, an almost dubstep take on White Stripe's "Seven Nation Army," could upstage that kind of circus-quality surrealness. In other words, Glitch Mob have accomplished a serious feat -- taking electronic music, often just a laptop-driven affair, and making its performance into a full-on show.
The crowd: Sunburns, tank tops, beards, glowsticks, glowsticks, glowsticks ... even at least one small child waving glowsticks. In general, lots of festival-type folk.
Overheard: At one point, after exactly 20 seconds of music -- "OH MY GOD IT'S A NEW SONG!" She turned out to be right. That's impressive fan dedication to the discography!
Random detail: A small group of fans managed to sneak in a case of jumbo glowsticks -- well, more like color-changing glow-rods -- and kept periodically tossing them down into the crowd from the second floor during particularly dramatic moments during the Glitch Mob's set.
By the way: If you do, in fact, need another Glitch Mob fix at the Langerado festival in October, advance two-day passes are $150 right now.