Decibel Festival 2009: the weekend

by Philip LaRose

I said in my Thursday writeup that “there’s so much more going on” than just the showcases at Neumos and Sole Repair, but I ended up focusing on those two venues through the rest of the Festival. Indeed, even bouncing between them, there was still so much to hear that I can only talk a bit about the highlights and mention the rest.

On Saturday, my efforts to keep tabs on the Bass Lovers Unite Showcase at Neumos resulted in me not hearing enough of the jazzier, groovier sophisticated sounds of DJ Struggle and Dave Aju in the Tree & Mountain Showcase at Sole Repair. However, I had read that Mary Anne Hobbs was an act to see, so I made sure to be in Neumos at 11:30 to check her out, and fortunately that was a good decision. She lived up to the showcase name, delivering body-shaking bone-crushing bass in a mix ranging from pretty fast drum ‘n bass to slow and heavy dubstep. Afterward, I went back to Sole Repair to finish the evening dancing to Codebase, who mixed into his techno some classic songs from the ‘70s through the ‘90s by artists including Kraftwerk, Thompson Twins, Janet Jackson, and Salt ‘n Pepa.

The dB Afterhours: The Deep End Pt. 2 at the Church of Bass was touted as the afterparty to be at, but the problem with “the party to be at” is that everyone’s at that party: lots of good dance music, little room to dance. After about an hour I headed over to the Little Red Studio for the Dirty Velvet Afterhours; unfortunately, I found the hiphop-styled dubstep there too loud and obnoxious for my taste, so I decided to call it an evening.

Sunday night I started out with the 2009 Decibel Festival Finale at Neumos. I found the Finale to be a little strange in that it was the most like a regular concert: there were setup breaks between the acts, and the audience at least in the first half mostly stood around to listen, showing little inclination to dance -- even though when I arrived, Jerry Abstract was playing a fine set of danceable techno.

This rock-concert mood seemed more appropriate when Tim Exile took the stage at 10, announcing “I’m from England” and immediately looping the word “England” into a rhythm track. He proceeded with the most unusual set I saw during the Festival, basing his music by singing and beatboxing into a microphone and looping and mixing the samples in real time. He also stepped out in front of his equipment table to sing and interact directly with the audience. I regret that I left for a bit to catch some of the scene at Sole Repair; I missed Exile performing a couple songs right from the midst of the audience, using a wireless mic and a wireless joystick to control his other gear.

Exile was followed by the mellow jazzy triphop of Reagenz, which I liked a lot, but I felt it was time to check out more of the Muti Music Showcase at Sole Repair. There, Mimosa was making some hot and heavy beats for a lot of hot dancers. I couldn’t resist the pull of the dance floor and stayed for most of his set despite wanting to hear more of Reagenz too. I split the last hour of the evening evenly, first at Neumos with the start of Alter Ego’s continuous-peaks-and-valleys techno, and then at Sole Repair for the slower heavier dubstep of An*ten*nae; I enjoyed Alter Ego’s music more, but enjoyed the more active dance scene with An*ten*nae.

I had a fantastic time all through Decibel Festival 2009, and I can only guess at how much cool stuff I missed by not getting to the other venues. I’m looking forward to next year -- and hoping to catch a lot more of it then.

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