May 17th, 2012 By JAY HORTON | Music | Posted In: Live Cuts, Concert Review

Live Review: Bassnectar @ Roseland Theater, Friday, May 11

     
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Turns out that this week is extremely late concert review week. My bad. It was worth the wait, though. -Ed.

Impassioned critiques of dubstep invariably come across as either crotchety or insufferable, I know, but a ring of truth resonates around complaints that electronic music dissolves the recognizably organic from its most popular creations. There's something unsettling about a subbish-culture (one that tops from the bottom, to be sure) beloved of community and the liberating powers of dance still centered about ruthlessly dehumanized soundscapes, but fear not, true believers, all such quibbling evaporates on the evening's first waft. 

The Bassnectar experience, if nothing else, certainly smells like people.

Throngs packed the well-sold-out Roseland to catch this latest tour by the former Lorin Ashton, a DJ and EDM legend just this side of mainstream success yet more than capable of attracting thousands to various happenings. This evening's affair lay safely in the hundreds, skewing younger and monied with the children of privilege outfitted to look like rave-ready Bruno Mars action figures. They continually glanced back at one another as if to confirm this was indeed the shit, lips ever poised between sneer and smirk, while girl counterparts hid behind everpresent black handkerchiefs, escaping the aroma as others would evade tear gas. Occupy signifiers were as inexplicably common as hippie garb and the weirdly ubiquitous sombreros—headgear, one suspects, gifted from Ashton's heavenly host, the famed amBASSadors on hand to cool off the crowd and aid family portrait—that suggested a Cinco de Mayo party bus permanently derailed.

One striking older gent whom I'll continue to believe Jon Hamm danced resplendent in 70s cabana wear while fiddling with outsized ear plugs that may have also been disco era, but ear plugs, of any vintage, weren't such a bad idea. The very threat of Bassnectar's relentless lower register had forced cancellation of at least one stop along the west leg of his tour—a homecoming for USCS alum Ashton at the metal-friendly Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, no less—and the reality was deafening. The hair on the side of my neck quivered as if the lightbank-decorated stage would soon take orbit and spiral the nearby spindly club kid casualty (dressed for some reason as Loverboy, possibly by accident) over the balcony railing.

Bassnectar does not sound like people, fair enough, but, for all the digital wizardry, neither does it tend robotic: more like a futuristic tickle fight or the Starchild's first make out. There were cheers for the more obvious turntablist power moves and confused murmurs whenever the mix grew too complex or the melodic elements less familiar. Middle eastern strains proved especially off putting, while “Ping Pong” (a track off just released album Vava Voom which employs table tennis samples above metronome-busting BPMs) flooded the floor. Some, the most beautiful, glided through it all with a luminous majesty suggesting a properly loved-up intake or sufficient experience to pantomime the effects. The bikini-clad knock-outs seemed most comfortable by some measure. It did not, as well, feel like a place for people. Pity the kids stuffed to animal heads, doff a neon beanie to the plushie enthusiasts that refused to check their furs at the door, but stifling temperatures rendered the average concertgoer's beach ensemble fundamentally practical, however far from swimsuit season some figures appeared.

And, lo, they danced, endlessly, frenetically, despite the DJs oft-curious approach. During final stretch, the undimmed throngs pogoed madly to the strains of a relatively unmolested “Song 2” until the rock dissipated to whibbly bits and the crowd ebbed accordingly. They'd resume jumping as the Whoo-hoo-laden chorus sounded and again fade to confusion as anthemic turned abstract. Ashton repeatedly teased the opening just enough to lure forward momentum only to leave the churning bodies adrift, as if dangling a mouse hat from a string. The effect, perhaps, was of a benevolent but playful god. Eventually, most would surrender, save those few beatific souls that continued to wave their arms like they had all the cares in the world suddenly intensified. Nobody said rapture should be pleasant.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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