Wednesday night was not only my first Decibel Festival experience, but the first time I’d seen live electronic music at all. I learned many things, two of the most important being that a) Decibel Festival is awesome and b) Don’t wear a heavy sweatshirt to Decibel Festival if you can help it.
We spent the entire night in Neumos for the Ghostly International Showcase, which included Mux Mool opening things off, followed by the Gold Panda, Seattle’s own Lusine, and showcase headliner Pantha du Prince. Like I said, I’d never really been to a live electronic show, and to be honest, I don’t really know anything about electronic music, aside from the superficial knowledge of the artists I’d picked up over the past few weeks of anticipation. I was excited and ready to go though, and so was everyone else — despite the fact that it was Wednesday, Capitol Hill was hopping.
Mux Mool came on behind a nice Decibel Festival desk and immediately made sure everyone knew how to pronounce and spell his name. He played an incredibly busy set that was almost too much for me to process, there was so much going on (again, I apologize for not knowing what I’m talking about). People were dancing here and there and Mux Mool repeatedly tried to rouse the crowd into a frenzy, but it wasn’t happening this early in the night.
Naturally, because we arrived so early, there was plenty of dead time for us to stand around and decide to get drink and after drink. By the time Gold Panda came on, we were ready to dance and so was most of the crowd, which had thickened up since Mux Mool left the stage. Seeing Gold Panda play live was actually not our first experience with him that night. Earlier my friend and I were just finishing eating at the Pike Street Fish Fry, right next to Neumos and the Moe Bar. My friend held up his fries and asked the guys waiting in line if anyone wanted some untouched fries, as he was too full to eat them. A bearded guy with a London shirt on took them, and his friend made a comment on how well Seattle was treating him. I had a hunch the fry-receiver was Gold Panda, but my friend was oblivious. Sure enough we saw him on stage setting up as Gold Panda a few minutes later.
Gold Panda had the crowd moving the entire time and was by far the most active of anyone at the Ghostly International Showcase. He had his own table of gear set up at the edge of the stage, and was twisting knobs and hitting buttons and staring intently at laptops without respite. I was wondering how much of his set was actually written and how much as just him improvising with effects and beats. I definitely didn’t notice “Same Dream China“, and I’d believe if you told me he was just riffing most of the night. Regardless, it sounded amazing and people were dancing all over the place (the sound in general was very good all night – really loud, and with so much bass that I could literally feel my nostrils vibrating). It was around this time that I regretted my wearing my sweatshirt.
Lusine was back behind the pre-arranged Decibel Fest desk for his set, which consisted mainly of laptop work, or so it seemed. This is one issue I have with live electronic music: you really have no idea what anyone is doing. Would anyone object to having a camera over all the gear and their hands moving to make the beats? How is this a bad idea? When you go to a live show, you expect to SEE the musicians playing the music live, and you can’t at electronic shows. It’s like if a guitar player was standing behind a screen or had his back facing the crowd to where you couldn’t see his fingers moving. Anyway, Lusine’s music might have been the most straight-up dance-iest of the night, and though we were in the bar for the majority of his set, what we saw was great.
Pantha du Prince is who I was most excited to see. Like Gold Panda, he had his own table set up at the edge of the stage, and somehow we were able to finagle our way up to where we were right in front of him. I could have literally bent over and unplugged a wire with my teeth. Pantha du Prince was serious, in control, focused, and mysterious throughout most of the set; it was easy to see why he was headlining. As he was starting I noticed a water glass with a mic glued to the outside of it to PdP’s right. He would hit it with a little tuning-fork-like rod and the effect was unbelievable. Even more unbelievable was that a few minutes later he filled the glass with ice and water and continued to use it throughout his set, stirring here and tapping there. It was one of the coolest and most creative (and effective) things I’ve seen live. The entire set was great and his music was far more beat-heavy and danceable than I feel like his albums are, but you have to play to the crowd and at electronic shows, the crowds are going to want to dance. Thankfully, Pantha du Prince had no problem obliging us.