In the freak storm of March 2013 I set out, cheeks in cherry-red defense of the snow, to my familiar destination, Urban Lounge. During my slow, bumbling approach, I noticed the line was rather long, but seemed to be moving quickly. Thank God. I met up promptly with my friend, who was dusted with glittering snowflakes and shaking with the cold. As we approached the door, a girl who was apparently “on the list” shoved violently past my comrade and I, beyond the bouncer who was checking IDs, and right up to the man with the guest roster. After a moment of heated conversation between Barbie and bouncer, Barbie left red-faced and wholly chastised, one line running through her moppy head: “Don’t be a bitch if you get on the list.” That sentiment, while already pertinent in my mind, cemented to my temporal lobes with irregular determination.
I had no problems getting past the door, save an awkward wink a la ticket commissioner. Consequently, I strutted smoothly about five feet inside before I impacted with the back of three extremely sweaty mortals and decided instead to retreat near the bar. There I would have less risk of contracting a cross contamination of diaphoresis and the view was also considerably better.
Emancipator’s back-drop was already set up, and added a bit of extra interest to the two opening acts. Odezsa swirled onto the stage, accompanied by a barrage of blue spotlights. He immediately hunkered down Asian-inspired synths infused with popular artist samples (ie: Lily Allen) that created an innocent, ambient wonderland. Floating melodies added to the sweetness lilting through the grungy venue. As I looked around, half the crowd was swaying with their eyes closed and a look of bliss plastered on their faces, the other half was conversing loudly and drunkenly. Such is an electronic show. Odezsa crouched over his sound board and rubbed it until it came a gorgeous wash of music. Odd... He silently crouched and occasionally made an adjustment on his lap-top while intermittently drinking from a water bottle. Stage presence is an entirely different issue when it comes to DJs.
The bespectacled Laurent Clerc of Little People shuffled onto the stage shortly after Odezsa’s set had come to a close. I felt unequivocally positive when I realized switching between sets required very little maintenance. This time looking around, I noticed how many people were on a date with Molly for the night. Saucer-sized pupils tend to catch the light. I snickered and turned back toward the stage as “Gravitas” bounced heartily over the subs. I was impressed with the way a mix of beats would give birth to one of his songs, and quickly fade back into improvisation. “Last Fare” (also from Mickey Mouse Operation) served as an ideal background for grooving. As the set ripened, the section of the crowd inside the “hip-breakers” (what I like to call the bars surrounding the main dancing area) became rowdier. Most people had at least one arm up, many of which were holding cell phones, and all of them were dancing in one way or another. Occasionally, Clerc would glance at the crowd to reassure that he was mixing something mosh-able. I can easily say he did more than that. I was extremely impressed with the way he created music so easy to dance to while sticking faithfully to his heavy, downtempo style. With a friendly wave and slight smirk, Clerc exited the stage. I’ve never heard a cheer so loud for an artist I was sure most people had never heard of.
I returned from the smoking patio chilled and consequently hazy-eyed to a room still flooded with torrents of cerulean light. Douglas Appling, flat bill pulled down to his eyes, decked out his zone with double computers and a complicated-looking mixer. Onlookers devolved with frightening rapidity into ass-scratching apes (myself included) as he put the final touches on his set-up. Ilya Goldberg sauntered onto stage accompanied by an elegant electric violin and they jumped directly in. The intro to “Nevergreen” swirled incandescently out of the speakers. As the beats broke into the body of the song, spotlights flashed a mean color of salmon, and the alternating triangles on the back drop unexpectedly became a projection screen.
Billowing geometric patterns danced across the stage back, mesmerizing the crowd who let out an audible “Ahhhhhh.” Appling, vigorously concentrated, pressed buttons all across his set-up in sequence. Goldberg swayed with a congenial smile on his face. I was surprised by the cool demeanor all of the performers had exhibited. Water bottles abound, Emancipator stomped into a spot-on performance of “Greenland.” I realized right away that dancing to their music at Urban is much more fun than doing it by myself in my bedroom. I was standing right underneath the speakers, which gave my experience a pulsating sensation that extended from both the ceiling and the floor. With every switch of a song or escalation in intensity, the patterns projected on the back-drop design transformed. During a performance of “Soon it Will be Cold Enough to Build Fires” (my personal favorite), an awe-inspiring depiction of a sunrise from above slithered across the triangles. I couldn’t help but smile.
Thirty minutes in I realized that the excitement wasn’t up on stage, but with me and the rest of the moist Utahns around me. Glancing back up to the stage periodically, I pirouetted and gyrated from the hip-breakers to the bar and back. The mix of mourning violin and smacking cadence created a heady allegro con moto that my body moved to whether I asked it to or not. Jazzy, Asian-influenced samples overlaid a gritty banjo on “Old Devil,” which got everyone jumping and stomping on each other’s toes. Having been out of the electronic scene for several months, I had forgotten how much shows seem like a party and the performer your host.
When I looked up again from the flood of hair encompassing my face, I saw more cell-phones than lights from the stage. I still can’t imagine why people want to see their videos later and look back on the concert through the blur of shitty recording and audio. To each his own, I suppose.
Emancipator’s main set came to a close with a whirr and a familiar smile from the pair of performers. A speedy salute, and the two retreated (as most performers at Urban do) into the green room. A chant for “one more song” began to rise from the group around me, but in all honesty, it sounded like “suck my thong,” so I laughed too hard join in. Appling and Goldberg skipped back on stage and humored us. They jumped into a performance of “Minor Cause” off of the new album Dusk to Dawn. Appling mentioned its new music video which you can find here.
Another five minutes of dancing through my self-inflicted side ache before Emancipator flopped off stage and the lights flicked on. I wasn’t particularly excited to venture back out into the snow, so my friend and I hid inside for a few moments. After busting out and walking home, my body and brain were too tired to stay up longer than I needed to collapse into bed. You know it was a good show when you wake up in the morning with your shoes still on and face plastered to the pillow. Needless to say, I was sore for the rest of the weekend.