Like many a good night, mine started at the Triple Door. It’s hands-down one of the best venues in Seattle, especially for an evening of atmospheric, ambient soundscapes. The Ghostly International recording label has been a fixture at Decibel Festival for many years, so when I arrived just in time to hear Loscil, it was no surprise to see a standing-room-only house packed to the gills with Seattle’s most avid ambient lovers. I had violated a cardinal rule of the Optical shows at the Triple Door: Come early, imbibe often.
Loscil, aka Scott Morgan hails from Vancouver, BC and has been churning out mood-altering, organic grooves for more than a decade. His calming set was followed by a guitarist with a little more stage presence. Christopher Willits, a jack of all trades, humbly addressed the audience with his trusty guitar slung across his body, constantly emoting how excited he was to be playing Decibel. Willits’ layered beats and textural rhythms had audiences excited to be there, too.
After the show, I ran down the street to the Showbox to watch Avalon Emerson play some light and fun house tracks. Since it was such an early set, the dancefloor left something to be desired. Those who filled it were either diehard fans or just getting warmed up. Emerson wins this year’s festival’s Most Underrated Act award. Her track selection had some serious juice and her mixing was fantastic. If she comes back through Seattle, house lovers better drop everything and show support for this emerging San Francisco-based talent.
Next up was the headliner of the night and possibly the entire festival, techno pioneer PLASTIKMAN, aka Richie Hawtin. Transcending musical trends comes naturally to this tried-and-true recording artist, producer, remixer, live performer and DJ. Hawtin’s live set consisted mostly of bangin’ techno which dancers enjoyed to the backdrop of the Experience Music Project’s Sky Church venue.
From the outside, the EMP is hideous. It looks like Godzilla ate a monster-proportionate box of crayons and then shat out a building. Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the EMP looks and feels as sterile and the tech company that precedes it. After a night of body-movin’ to Richie Hawtin in the spacious, acoustic-focused venue, I’ve been worn down. I no longer user the F-word when talking about the EMP, and I also have it to thank for being able to say for the first time in a long time that I was at church on Sunday. (The show ended around 1am.)
Before my mojo drained completely, I headed up the hill to Q nightclub to catch the end of a set from !!! DJs. The “!!!” is pronounced “chk chk chk,” and relaying that to other people is how you know you need to stop going to shows.
Still, they were easy on the eyes and ears, so this Sacramento-based collaborative gets a pass from me. Around 1:30, there was just a short line for non-Decibel-goers and access was easy for badges and wristbands. The venue quickly hit capacity as predicted by tittering fans’ excitement for a performance by house producer KiNK.
Until that night, I hadn’t heard of this Bulgarian artist and thus hadn’t thoroughly enough come to terms with my house music fetishes. KiNK required some additional setup (isn’t that always the case?), but he was worth the wait. Not only was the music exciting and gorgeously percussive, KiNK had one of the most exuberant, genuine performances I’ve ever seen by a DJ.
He grinned and boasted his unique instruments, lit up in all the colors of the rainbow. With outstretched arms, he played show-and-tell with a receptive audience as he created beats, recorded harmonies, and layered them to create a full-bodied, memorable sound.
When I left around 3, the line had expanded down Q’s long corridor and out onto the street. If they had come for the KiNK, they probably stayed for the aftercare.