It’s Christmastime for electronic music lovers everywhere as Seattle’s Decibel Festival kicks off another year of feet-moving mania. While the artists and venues may change, the elated spirits of natives and visitors coming together for five days of feel-good shows is ever-present. With the event growing so much every year, can we just declare this long weekend a national holiday already?
Alice Bowman and her band started the Optical 2 showcase at Benaroya on a friendly but somber note. Bowman’s breathy voice was captivating over the sharp piano and drumbeats. A touch of brass added some body to the arrangement, and you could feel the mood of the crowd settle down after a long day at work, and for some, a long trek to heart of the city.
The images scrolling throughout the performance conjured the stillness and beauty of a peaceful prairie walk. The common thread that each piece was a solitary woman with graceful movements that melted into the scenery behind her. Juxtaposed with the soft apparitions were sharp, angular structures: a boxy house, a wide doorway, an abandoned railroad.
Bowman’s command of her songs was impressive, although her stage presence felt a little dicey when she tried to do an interlude. She started off by introducing her band (good!) but then rambled about her two EPs… which make one LP… which is for sale… outside, maybe… yes, outside. All that seemed unnecessary, but yes, support your favorite traveling artists.
Next up was Survive, which hails from my former stomping ground of Austin, TX. Their rock-anthem-come-electro-force-amplified set was a fine example of Austin’s South by Southwest offerings made palatable for Decibel Festival consumption.
The four young(ish?) men onstage led a psychedelic, guitar-laden journey through a parallel dimension where only the music matters. Well, maybe it can be augmented by a few beers (gathered onstage for relaxation purposes) and some smokeable refreshments (enjoyed by a fellow audience member).
Unlike the act before them, these guys were short on words. One tried to pick up a mic and say thanks at the end, said “fuck it,” and waved good-bye as they departed as nonchalantly as they arrived.
Finally, Max Cooper featuring The Pendleton House took the stage for some dark glitches, experimental techniques, and… interpretive dance? Oh hell, I thought as five dancers scantily dressed dancers flounced onto the stage. These people are going to force the human form down my throat and all I can do is close my eyes.
Like these purveyors of physical and emotional depth, perhaps I was being a bit melodramatic. The dancing was discomforting at times, but perhaps that is the whole point: Not everything is going to be sweet and comfortable. Some things are messy and chaotic and you have to watch them.
The sharp, angular bodies of the dancers made tall, ominous shadows on either side of the stage while flowers bloomed in the projection behind. At the high points of the show, Cooper’s sound could be mistaken for early Aphex Twin. At the low points, well, my eyes were open.