Concert Reviews, Decibel 2013

Decibel Festival 2013: Day Three (Optical 2, Deep Roots, Little Boots)

Kat Taylor / September 29, 2013
Photo of Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds from

German composer Nils Frahm opened Optical 2 without an empty seat in the theater. Having seen him perform a couple times already (and seeing him once more after his solo set), I was feeling like he and I should spend some time apart.

I settled in for the next act, Ôlafur Arnalds, a composer from Reykjavik. With his lilting accent, slight build and whimsical approach, he reminded me of Björk’s male counterpart and thus won me over before he could even pick up an instrument.

Arnalds was joined by a violist and cellist, each of whom used their mastery of their respective instruments to help us 9-to-5ers relax after a long work week. That’s not to say it’s easy to be a musician. In between songs, Arnalds recounted his jarring journeys down the pothole-laden roads of Eastern Europe and rough plane rides across the world.

Now touring the U.S. in an 80s-style home on wheels, he pontificated on his new accommodations. “The floor is soft, the walls are soft, even the ceiling is soft. If the van tipped over, we could still sleep.” But sleep still doesn’t come easy for Arnalds, having been up since 6am to play a morning show. He used this to explain his loopy talkativeness, which made the show all the more fun to experience.

I headed up the hill to Q nightclub for part two of the Deep Roots showcase. Arriving just in time for the beginning of Waifs and Strays, I hung back and took in the seamlessly mixed house tracks and eclectic early crowd out on the floor. I hadn’t been to Q since last year’s festival, but I rediscovered the lay of the land to be tastefully simple. Although it appears off-putting from the outside with its velvet rope and long hallway, the ample seating areas, private bathrooms, giant dancefloor and excellent lighting make this club worth a visit—and an excellent dB venue.

When Henrik Schwarz and his signature scarf got behind the decks, the dancefloor seemed to fill instantaneously. Starting off slow then barreling head-first into catchy hooks, his set gave off a slightly jazzy vibe while paying homage to more current house anthems. Mixing in a little hip-hop and some banging techo, Schwartz kept everyone on their toes.

Another dancefloor was nearing capacity a mere block away at Neumos, where English band Little Boots lit up the stage with retro-inspired synths and hard-hitting energy. The lead singer, a tiny blond spitfire, attacked the set with her memorably stark good looks and in-your-face attitude. If the Bangles got their start in 2013 instead of the early 80s, this is how they’d sound.

The night was an altogether diverse collection of showcases from some of the world’s most exciting talent. I was also impressed by the ease of access to all the shows—short lines, friendly staff, and great music. Time to get out there and do it again!

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