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.