Teen Daze, Beat Connection and White Arrows @ Kilby 07.18

Posted July 20, 2012 in
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Teen Daze
I’m sitting next to my buddy, Sam Hanson, on the mini-patio next to the stage garage at Kilby Court in a conversation-less silence. As I munch on my burrito, I think, “It’s been a long time since I’ve really delved into electronic dance music on a critical level”"maybe not verbatim. Last time I’d done so was when I saw DJ Icey at a Club Sound rave. Yes, I did that.

Then I hear Teen Daze’s soft synths emanate from beyond the stone walls. I force the remnant of my morsels into my face, and Sam and I scuttle into the door and get close to the producer near stage right. The celestial-sounding synths flood the room as samples of voices cut through. The audience members ease into a sort of sonic bubble bath when, suddenly, Teen Daze SLAMS us with a meaty kick drum that just keeps bumping. One-man army Jamison bobs his head up and down with the four-on-the-floor beat as he twists the knobs on his Ableton-Live sequencer with the occasional glance at his laptop with a cute, red ghost sticker on the back. His elbows angle into his sides as he subtly dances, which lends him the appearance of a ’90s emo kid in conjunction with his swoopy bangs and glasses. Teen Daze evinces the same sort of tactile relationship with his equipment as does a guitar player as he fiddles with the knobs, a coy simper on his face. At times, he throws the beat off to stutter, which is a cool effect, but I think he should use it sparingly, as it becomes jarring. He throws in a pad (or at least what I think it is from my Garage Band experimentation), which contrasts nicely with the heavy kick beat.

Teen Daze moves into his second track, which is reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s “Popcorn” with its full, staccato blips, but definitely retains its chillwave character. He starts out with a less bright kick beat this time around, but then"once again"slams in with a fiercer kick with a whopping timbre. At times, I did want him to throw some snare in there because I want the track to build more, but the crowd doesn’t care as they bob their heads back at him. At a certain point in the track, he throws in an airy synth tone that reminds me of a penny whistle. He introduces the next songs as new material, and makes sure that it’s OK with the crowd. He demurely says, “Then, maybe in a couple of years, there will be a new Teen Daze album.” He throws in the bass, which goes deep along a tempo more akin to dubstep. At a few junctures, Jamison cranes over to sing in a high voice, which reminds me of New York performance artist Neal Medlyn. A couple of notes come out flat, but it’s endearing and draws the track away from sounding like epic trance vocals. As he throws down the next newbie, I realize that THESE are the bass droids we’re looking for as the bass line expands through the space like a knot in the throat. He continues with the dubstep tempo and sings again"this time with more comfortability, reminding me of the days when I’d see Will Sartain in Redd Tape in this very same venue. Out of nowhere, the tempo careens into a faster house beat. The crowd bobs their heads harder, but maintains their relaxed enthusiasm with fixated gazes. For his third, final track, he asks if we want something fast or mellow, and a few chime in with “fast!” The beat boogies into another four on the floor, but it’s faster, and bongo-like percussion bops through to get people to jump from bobbing to understated dancing. Vocoder-affected vocals shimmer through, singing, “She looks good tonight.” Everyone’s energy is piqued as Teen Daze ends his set and the audience files back outside.

It’s still light outside, and I realize that more people have joined the show … and that there are a whole bunch of 18-year-olds. They seem stoked, though, and that’s what matters. White Arrows begin their set with their own synth flavor, and I look in the window. Three of them wear Hawaiian shirts, one of whom wears a large, floppy sun hat, and their keyboardist dons a rad, watermelon tye-die shirt. I file in, interested, and a blanket of poppy synths and echo/reverbed-out vocals slide over me. What I really notice is the drums, though. That motherfucker throws in off-beats on the snare amid his dancey rhythms like it’s nothing. The second song exhibits the bassist’s prowess as he syncopates his groove with a live four on the floor with some rad rim taps, wherein the drummer eases into a reggaeton-esque rhythm. White Arrows display deft execution in their use of each musician"no instrument outshines the other, and everyone is balanced from the ’80s synth to the electronic drum pad with synthetic claps that I don’t even notice until near the end of their set.

It’s dark outside now, and there are more 18-year-olds. In the words of the great Karl Malone, though, “18-year-old spooky, but it don’ bite.” (That’s not a real quote.) Beat Connection pipes up, and we enter the garage for the closers. Like the acts before them, they throw down the simple house beat, but their drummer is like a human metronome, which is probably what he hears from the ear buds he has in, and their singer sings in a tone akin to Fruit Bats, but more composed and smooth. The house lights are all off as their own, electric blue lights flash with the music behind him. Beat Connection begin their second track with fake cheers, almost as if to elicit some energy from the children"no one yells back in response, but nod, anticipating the track to come, which snaps with electronic claps along the beat and a slippery, clean guitar solo. The third song exudes a Latin character, though I can’t exactly put my finger on it aside from the conga drum, and moves into Song Four, which features a monkish tone from one of their two keys-players throughout the song. The Seattle-based band tells us how happy they are to be here, and introduce two songs from their new album. The first one seems like a pleasant combo of Thin Lizzy and Bloc Party in a chillwave masher"an awkward description, but, believe me, it’s not"and the second reminds me of the intro to Van Halen’s “Jump,” but, yet again, not in a campy or ironic way; they will have been the band’s strongest tracks. The music and the crowd has become progressively more dancey throughout Beat Connection’s set"the kids are eatin’ it up. Beat Connection don’t elicit an encore due to Kilby’s homey structure, and hit their final song: a balanced mix between chillwave and dream pop. The singer shakes a tambourine, and everyone in the room shakes their tails as a subdued vocal sample shines through. The conga drumming returns and builds into a shredding but (again) clean guitar solo, and lapses into a solid, syncopated synth-bass line to end the night.

I walk out into the slightly chilled night air. I’ve grown and electronic music has grown. Let’s hang out, dance bands. I want to get to know you.
Teen Daze Teen Daze