Decibel Festival 2008: A Review, A Reawakening
WOW, WOW, WOW. What a weekend. What a swirling mess of art, what an epic adventure in electronica, what a bad-ass dance festival, what an fantastic experience to have shared with friends. I had one of the best weekends of my life, and yall know I have a hell of a lot of great weekends.
Seattle has just been injected with a reinvigorating shot of electronic adrenaline. I keep hearing the word “inspired” roll off the tongues of the many friends who came out. DJs are talking about taking their art in new directions and dancers got their groove back. All the local performers that I saw really threw down, bringing up their game and refusing to have anything but a killer time. The visiting artists I have spoken with since this weekend had a blast in our city as well and loved the Seattle crowds that showed up; it was really neat for me to see all the different performers out and about checking out other artists and their work. The sound everywhere was excellent (why can’t we have this all the time?) and I discovered new music from around the world as well as from locals which has changed the way I see the world, as good art should. Score.
And I TOLD YOU dB in the Park with the Glitch Mob was going to be insane- and the freaks and robots definitely showed up! Thank you my friends!
It seems like I should be tired or hungover or something, but right now I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to go. Which is a good thing, since I leave for Thailand tomorrow morning- but before I leave, I want to share with you my impressions and adventures of the past weekend. I made it to nineteen showcases, one conference, and three unofficial afterhours, two official afterhours, hung out with Jahcoozi until 8AM, had fun messing around with Deadmau5’s head, ate crab wontons with edIT and Boreta, and I am still standing. And glowing. And ready for next year.
My Decibel began officially at Grey Gallery on Thursday night where the Oi Vay boys were warming up the lounge with their sexy beats; Struggle was up top spinning and Eddie was dancing around like the lovable soul he is. This was not to be the last time I ran into this Seattle legend shaking his ass during the weekend- that boy gets down, for real.
I hung out at Sole Repair for a bit where Team Peloton was tearing it up; I tried bouncing back and forth into Neumos but the opening acts were all a bit too slow for me/not my cup of tea/kill me now and I kept finding myself back in Sole Repair where the dancing was goo-od mmm mmm. Those boys know how to make the people DANCE!
I like being able to see the DJ and so hung out upstairs which had more room for the freaky dancers with flailing arms, like me. Around 1AM when INCITE! aka Sean Horton went on we all donned mustaches to wish him a happy birthday (not sure where the mustaches fit in- though I do know a lot of French bicyclists with beards). I am a big fan of Sean’s new moniker and hope to see more of his more aggressive and visceral style soon in the future. I really enjoyed Stewart Walker as well, he was sweating and dancing to his beats almost as much as the wild crowd was.
Then I RAN back over to Neumos where Jahcoozi was running slightly late but noshing on snacks downtstairs in great spirits; I have been a big fan of theirs for a while and this was one of the acts I was really stoked about experiencing. Sasha and Oren took the stage and proceeded to turn the club on its head- what started as a half-full room of looky-loos ended in an all-out dance brawl. MC and rapper Sasha kept jumping down into the crowd and we all gathered around her like we were third-graders on a playground and she was the cool girl, dancing in a circle and getting down and getting dirty. She WAS the cool girl, and with her I-don’t-give-a-shit dance moves, heavy crowd interaction, sharp lyrics and mad trumpet skills she won over everyone there as did Oren, backing her up with his keen beats and electric bass.
Jahcoozi’s performance was definitely one of the highlights of the festival for me and I have heard the same from several people. And for the love of God can people stop comparing Sasha to MIA? The only thing they have in common is that they both rap and neither one of them are white- and there it ends. Sasha’s intelligent lyrics blow MIA’s out of the water- open your ears and listen and you will see the cliched comparisons are just the work of lazy music journalists.
After the Jahcoozi show we all went and kicked it in the Green Room where we talked to them about their trip up the West Coast (Seattle was their favorite show, ahem), Berlin (the scene there is as great as you think it is) and tried on Sasha’s sweet fur hat. I made the bands.tv guys and my coworker Cedric wait until about 3AM for the live streamed interview, but finally Jahcoozi was ready and we had a quick chat for the camera before all heading off to Sean’s birthday party in the loft above Grey Gallery which was rockin’ and hot and sweaty, just like a good afterhours should be.
Then we left with Jahcoozi and partied all night until breakfast hour back at the Best Western Executive Inn. The food sucked.
On Friday I was up for the lunchtime dB Conference on (duh) music journalism where I got insights from writers from XLR8R, Resident Advisor, the Stranger and more. One striking fact of the panel for me was that in a room of about thirty artists, only two were female, myself included. Where the ladies at? Next year, how about a panel on the dearth of female artists in the electronic arts?
Making my Friday was a delicious French-toast crepe and Wasabi Bloody Mary from Grey Gallery; highly recommended if you like your hangover with pickled okra and a very, very clear head.
That night I returned to Grey to catch a little of the Kulturszene DJ lounge before heading over to Neumos for the Dirty Dancing showcase where Let’s Go Outside was tearing it up. I love this DJ for his music and for this. I wanted to stay but my heady bass-freak self propelled me all the way over to the Baltic Room for the Native State Showcase; this venue is the perfect match for the Dark Lords of Native State. Welder was keeping the crowd wobbling and soon KiloWatts was shaking the whole earth with his structured and driving brand of crunky bass- this sound pioneer gave one of the best performances of Decibel, for sure. The people were lapping it up like kittens. Evil little kittens.
It was hard to pull away but I had to head back over to Neumos for Deadmau5. I lost track of how many times I went back and forth between the Baltic and the Pike Street area; I walked it at least four times, took a cab twice, drove at least once and bummed a ride a couple of times. Once I took a hoola hoop.
I really didn’t know what to think of Deadmau5- I am familiar with his music and had done some research for a pre-Decibel article but had never seen him live and really didn’t know what to think of Mr. Joel Zimmerman. Downstairs at Neumos he was chilling and connecting the mad wireage inside his now-blue Mau5head, whose ears are a lovely velour, fun to rub, and insured. He was feeling a little pain from the night before in Edmonton where he and his manager had tied one on, but there was no hint of that at all when the Mau5 took the stage, because-
Deadmau5 completely blew me away. His performance was my biggest surprise of the festival. Dance-floor transcendence, and you know what I mean. I tend to fall into the brainwaves of “oh, everyone in the world likes this artist, so he must really suck”- but Deadmau5 simply wrecked mad destruction; the dance floor was so freaking packed you hardly even had to dance- all the people around you just moved your body around for you, and all you had to do was give yourself to it. I really don’t think Joel knows how good he is, despite all the Beatport awards and accolades; all he cares about is getting back into his studio and making music. No really, that is all he cares about.
However we did convince him to head over to the Church of Bass for the Subsequence afterhours and arrived just in time for the very last of Kris Moon’s set and then proceeded to get sticky with Phidelity whose psychedelic robotty-bass grooved perfectly with the dark dance church, all decked out for the festival with sweet black light art. We then got a second dose of Brendan Angelides aka Welder who performed this time as Eskmo, who is a dreamy poet of electronic intensity- I don’t know what world he comes from, but I want to buy a ticket.
Saturday morning started with a trip to the airport to pick up my very favorite producers in all of the universe- edIT and Boreta of the Glitch Mob. Sadly I missed a lot of Decibel in the Park but I heard that Noisemaker laid it down proper, as usual. I rolled up in style with my precious cargo around 4PM just as Jacob London was finishing up and Truckasauras were getting set up with their Americanakitsch: gold Zelda cartridge, Uncle Sam hats and all. Who wants to bet that was Maker’s Mark in that plastic cup?
Truckasauras was good but I live for the Glitch Mob and now my dear children, you can see why. I think I personally called every single one of my friends and told them to go to this performance or I would kill them. And over a dozen of them came up and thanked me afterwards for the mind-blowing experience. edIT and Boreta (and Kraddy and OOah, the missing mobsters) create something new with each live show; you either get it or you don’t, and something tells me the mass of people dancing their asses off for an hour and a half GOT IT. Burner breaks, glitch hop, laser bass, Crunkedouthyphyfunkadelicpsybrokenwhomphopmusicforbasssluts or whatever you want to call it; the Glitch Mob pushes through boundaries like they aren’t even there (like the spoon) and they have a hell of a time doing it.
Great success! Decibel in the Park was mad fun, just like you knew it would be. The fact that the showcase was free added to the aesthetic and I know of at least one person who asserted that the Glitch Mob changed his life (me too). I hope to see more outdoor shows at Volunteer Park and of course, more freaks.
After a nap and a shower I headed over to Grey Gallery quickly to say hi to the Sweatbox and Knight Riders kids (I LOVE TECHNO) and then got myself to the Baltic Room where I made yet another exciting artist discovery at the Ghostly Showcase: Deru, who was taking things on a dark and twisty turn there on the dance floor. The dirty sounds got me all worked up which was just perfect because I hopped a cab up to Chop Suey where things were CRACK-EN’ in mad firecracker style. In the hot-as-hell side room Swank was ripping it up like a pirate and Sean Majors followed suite, keeping the energy ramped up, and over in the main room LA Riots started laying crazy on the crowd who flipping loved it.
Once again I was forced to pull myself away from the bRave New World Showcase and head to Neumos for Carl Craig; the end of Audion’s set had the people bursting in bubbles and then THE DETROIT LEGEND stepped up- and this is where I should stop writing. I danced for his entire set like a raving madwoman, like a lunatic with no lunch, like the insane devotee of the cult of dance that I am. I don’t know what tracks he played, I don’t know what he mixed in or how he did it, I don’t know his no-doubt long list of props, awards, and accolades. I was dripping, dripping with sweat, it was in my fat eyes and stupid smile which did not wear off all night (and is in fact still there right now).
This is what I live for, why I stay hours late at my office writing for you, why I go out all the time in search of it- it is why I do what I do- so that I can have this divine experience, and it is no less than that. My brain stops working completely and the music takes me over and I experience something that I cannot find elsewhere- not from a person, not from a drug, not from anything else on earth. THIS IS WHY WE DANCE. THANK YOU CARL CRAIG. No really, I love techno.
After three days of dancing of course I wanted to dance more and headed to a friend’s afterparty first; the dubstep was icky-icky but just not what I was searching for so I trolled down to the Church of Bass once again for yet another WOW experience and discovered yet another new favorite performer of the festival: Dixon. Oh. My. God. You would think the people on his dance floor had been sleeping for a thousand years instead of going for three days of Decibel. Taimur Agha kept it bangin’ as well and I left after several more hours of epic dance trance- a very very great day in the life, right?
After a respectable amount of sleep I was up on Sunday I made it to Havana’s just in time to catch Sun Tzu Sound, though not so for the barbeque from Austin which was long gone. This Texas girl was very sad, although the bartender had stashed some chicken back so I did get a little fix of homefood. I wasn’t expecting to dance, just to relax, but the warm, tribal sounds echoing out of the parking lot had a different idea, and soon I was getting down with a few others in the shady pink parking lot- so perfect for a city barbeque. Jeremy Ellis was out chillin’ in his sweet yellow suit and red ponytail and jumped in for a minute to play along with SunTzu. People kept strolling by the gates, watching us dance and listening to the beats and wondering where they took a wrong turn in life. (Yeah it was at the intersection of Mainstream Avenue and Live-For-Art Street).
Still hungry from my teaser barbeque experience, I drove over to the Triple Door to the Ambient Showcase for a little Deaf Center and a cheese plate. At the second door I ran into Akira Rabelais and we had quite the lovely wine experience all backed up with some creepy-ass music that would chill my bones right off if I played it late at night at my house and would no doubt inspire me to turn on every single light that I could. I think they call this kind of music “haunting”.
I went to this Ambient Showcase on the recommendation of everyone who has ever told me in my life to slow down- which is like 8000 people. I did, and it was as lovely as the wine I shared with Akira. I hung on for a little of Eluvium and then took my leave to go get down for one lovely last night of Decibel- it was time to dance!
Over at Sole Repair my favorite people in the world, Innerflight, were getting things started with J-Sun and then Kadeejah Streets up on the decks and swinging hard and low with their music- I don’t know who loved it more, the DJs or the crowd below. Upstairs once again in the gallery the dance freaks were rocking it; the crowd wasn’t as thick as it had been for the weekend nights but for those of us there it just meant more dance floor, because the music was definitely right up there with the best of the weekend.
Again- tough choices- I left to catch Flying Lotus who was incredibly entertaining and a gentleman to boot. He has to be one of the most talented and critically-acclaimed artists of the weekend, and for good reason. The Bug and the Warrior Queen didn’t so much do it for me, I loved the heavy vibrating bass but couldn’t seem to get into it and found myself outside socializing more than dancing- which shouldn’t happen in Shilo World (see Carl Craig above).
Supermayer brought it back for me though with their adorably clever musical attitude and I would have rocked out until the sugar-sweet ending- but m.0 was on fire next door and I wanted to blaze with him. I walked in to Sole Repair to see him in the middle of the dance floor with his trademark giant smile and seriously talented beat-mastery. Fantastic, beautiful, and epic. m.0 is the shit in this town plain and simple and is only going up, up, up, and Seattle will be right behind him with a big “Hell Yeah.”
After two I headed out for my fourth afterhours of the weekend where once again the music was top notch, the crowd was off their heads with excitement, Flying Lotus was chilling on the windowsill and I danced until I was wringing out my shirt AND JEANS. Wringing out my jeans, people. I was in bed by 6:30AM which didn’t quite give me the sleep I needed to be all perky and Shilo-like by my office meeting at 10AM- but I sure as hell was still dancing on the inside, as I will be for a while, thanks to Decibel Festival.
And thanks to you, everyone involved which is about a billion people, from the director down to the kids who shucked out money to see a show and over to the bouncer sweeping up cigarette butts. The electronic music community here in Seattle is alive and well, full of passion and smiling faces, exploding with talent and gaining more adherents every day. We must harness the excitement and enthusiasm for our music that you are all feeling right now and use it promote the talented artists among us, to work for more and bigger music venues in Seattle, to support newcomers to our scene, and to share with others what electronic music has meant to us, which more than can be put into words.
I too am inspired not only by all the new music and art in my head but by the fact that one person with a little help from friends can make a huge impact on the international electronic arts community which we are part of; mad mad props to Sean Horton. Thanks to everyone who handed out a flyer, reposted a Myspace bulletin, told a friend about the festival or simply showed up and danced. Rest assured that people returned home with respect for the Seattle electronic music community in their hearts, and I am honored to have been able to contribute to this epic electronic arts mania riot love dance fever weekend we like to call the Decibel Festival. Thanks you.
And now I ask you a favor- I would usually go back and add in links back to CultureMob.com for all of the artists, venues, and events as well as going back and editing the hell out of this write up at least three times, adding clever remarks and innuendos.
However I seriously have a flight to Thailand in less than twelve hours and should probably go home and start packing.
So if you would, my friends, check out CultureMob.com- register if you haven’t already, make a comment, and find out about local events coming up in Seattle and all over the country. CultureMob is all about promoting artists and venues and you will no doubt find some sweet events you didn’t know about, not only live music events but art, comedy, movies, sports, theater, and more. Sign up and make Shilo happy- well, happier. ‘Cuz I’m floating on beats right now.
Click here to go to CultureMob’s listing of upcoming Seattle electronic music events.
That’s it! I am off to Thailand. Catch you on the flip-flop. And one last time until next year, Happy Decibel.