Baths. Photo: Alex Takacs
Thursday, Sept. 19 at Urban Lounge marked the first stop of Will Wiesenfeld aka Baths' national tour, headed east for the next couple months.
I arrived just in time for opener Jerome LOL's set, adding to what seemed like a sparse crowd, though the parking situation outside had me looking for more bodies into the dark, Saturday Night Fever styled booths Urban has recently installed. Looking somewhat "bro-y" with a simple white tall tee, "been lol" printed on the front, Jerome stood behind a table packed with equipment that looked like a spaceship command center. I didn't know what to expect––out of the whole show, really, as I've never seen Baths live––since I'd never heard of Jerome, but I was hoping for more than a dull DJ set. What ensued left me wondering how anything was going to top Jerome's set.
Like the conductor of an orchestra, or perhaps more appropriate, the host in a cooking show, Jerome built his songs from scratch. I don't know enough about musical equipment to explain all the bells and whistles, but I definitely caught the auto tuner, which has become the mark of the lazy and untalented over the past decade. In Jerome's case, was used to add notes of melody looped on top of the stomach churning beats he was creating. I don't know if Urban upgraded their sound system, or if it was all Jerome, but I quite literally had to find a seat to keep the burrito I'd scarfed before the show from making another appearance as it bounced with the bass.
A bio I found for Jerome stated "To raise the new, one must raze the old," and it's a great description of his music. The highlight tracks, for me, were a sultry, '90s R&B inspired song reminiscent of 808-era Kanye West (probably 'cause of the auto-tune, but in a better way), and another that sounded like it belonged in a dark, underground Euro discotheque, where the house beats rip through your brooding soul.
The finale to his set was perfect, climaxing in a power surge and turning off just as quickly. I imagined someone unplugging a giant electrical plug in the back somewhere. Wiesenfeld later tweeted that Jerome's set was completely improvised, which didn't surprise me, but definitely left me even more impressed. Make sure you keep an eye out for this guy, and check out some of the trippy videos on his website with his former project, LOL Boys. He's due to release a new EP next year!
Baths was next, and as I mentioned previously, I was a little skeptical that the set would to live up to what I'd just experienced. Wiesenfeld came onto the stage looking like one of the Freaks and Geeks nerds during gym class, wearing bright red running shorts and a tank top. He was joined by a couple more musicians, but he took center stage with the mic, a keyboard and chair off to the side. I've really been digging his latest album, Obsidian, and its dark undertones, but I don't think I would've used any '90s references to describe the album, or Baths, really, until seeing him play live. His beats definitely have a '90s pop aesthetic, and like Jerome, I picked up a mix of genres, including some R&B and even industrial and numeral––which made for some interesting dance movies that I can only describe as "interpretive dance meets Weekend at Bernie's."
What took the experience, and the music, to the next level over Jerome, was Baths performance. I hadn't paid much attention to stand-out vocals on either Cerulean or Obsidian, but they became a big part of this show, as Wiesenfeld sung and yelped into the mic––high-pitched loops over the layers built by him and his bandmates. He was energetic and imbued all of the dramatic air of a frontman, which I honestly wasn't expecting from an electronic artist who likes to make music in the bathtub. It was a pleasant surprise, though, and made for an added level of entertainment––not that I needed it. As the tracks from Baths discography sounded from the stage, barely recognizable in their live form, bits of green light flecked the ceiling of the venue like the magic worm beans in James and the Giant Peach, driving me deeper into childhood nostalgia ('cause I'm a true '90s kid––I wasn't just a blubbering toddler in '94). I thought I heard the lyric, "The sky has swallowed me alive," and I truly felt it. Unfortunately, the guy next to me looked like he was about to hurl for a good 45 minutes, so I had to stay lucid enough to sprint away from the projectile vomit that seemed inevitable. Also, can all the locals who go to Urban just to drink and socialize fuck off and die already? Wiesenfeld had to literally "shush" them twice.
I left the Baths show feeling doubly satisfied by both the opener and the headliner, and realizing that all the hype around Kanye West's new album, which holds a lot of the same basic electronic elements I'd seen from these two artists, should be redirected. These kids are doing it better, folks, and you won't be paying $100 for nosebleed seats at one of their shows. The future belongs to the nerds!
Check out Baths here, and don't miss out on his tour this fall!