photos by Dave Lichterman
Friday night at Neumos was the RBMA (Red Bull Music Academy) on the Floor Showcase, and if the Wednesday and Thursday night crowds were any indication, it was sure to be an absolutely chaotic night on Capitol Hill now that the weekend was upon us. Also figuring into the madness was a lineup that included Teebs, Shlohmo, Mount Kimbie, and headliner Modeselektor from Berlin. Though Flying Lotus was touted (and rightfully so) as the festival headliner, there were many who were more excited for Modeselektor’s (pronounced “mode-selector”) high energy electronic dance music that is hard to pin to any one genre. The level of excitement for the German duo even proved to exceed my expectations, as I nearly got trapped outside of Neumos just before they went on. The venue was at capacity.
I’d spent most of the day at Benaroya Hall for the Optical 1 Showcase, and as a result I was only able to get out to Neumos just before Mt. Kimbie’s 11:30 set. Mt. Kimbie are Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, a pair of 22-year-old Londoners who announced that this was their first show ever in America. You don’t hear that very often! It was obvious that the entire audience was already in the dancing mindset in anticipation of Modeselektor, but Mt. Kimbie’s relatively soft, smooth, and subdued songs never really took off into unhinged dance numbers (that’s not to say they weren’t interminably groovable). Their approach was also interesting relative to other artists at the dB Fest, as they utilized an electric guitar for a song or two, and even added some vocals over their beats. While I admire these efforts, not much was done with the guitar aside from a little posturing and a few accentuating strums. The vocals also kind of fell flat, as they didn’t seem to be running them through any effects or looping them or anything that I’d think would suit live vocals during an electronic show. Your voice really better stand out if you’re going to sing naked vocals amidst a wash of electronic beats and effects, and I can’t say this was the case for Mt. Kimbie’s. Nevertheless, their style was unique, they were trying different things, and everyone was digging it.
After Mt. Kimbie finished up, some of my friends and I made the mistake of stepping outside for a cigarette. Capacity hadn’t been an issue Wednesday or Thursday, so it didn’t even cross my mind that the venue was packed, it was Friday night, and Modeselektor was about to come on. We met up with Dave Lichterman, (whose amazing pictures of Wednesday and Thursday’s shows can be seen here and here, and who also provided the camerawork for this post), who informed us that they weren’t letting anyone else in. After a few minutes of panicking and running through our options, Dave and I were able to finagle our way in a back door, and my friends later made it in via the attached Moe Bar. Whew!
Everything about Modeselektor makes you want to dance. The duo (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) have a bubbly, carefree, have-a-good-time attitude, and despite their thick German accents they were intent on bringing everyone in the crowd along for the ride with them. It wasn’t a hard sell. As soon as they started playing their fast-paced beats the crowd unleashed all the energy that had been building up throughout Mt. Kimbie’s set (in this way Mt. Kimbie were actually the perfect opener band to open for Modeselektor). Complemented by some great visuals by fellow Berliner Pfadfinderei, the duo tore through song after song, each one just as energized and dance-ready as the one before it. One thing that’s great about Modeselektor is that they played a series of easily definable songs of reasonable length, not a continuous, hour-long set of beats and effects that the audience would have had a hard time not losing some degree of interest in. None of Modeselektor’s songs lasted too long, and the crowd was given something new to get excited about every few minutes. Anyway, they killed, and everyone in Neumos had to have left wishing they had left a few layers at home. The one thing I was disappointed by was the fact that on Neumos’ ceiling rows of strung lights were hung up, covering the entire venue. I was waiting all night for these to go off, but to my knowledge it never happened (not during Mt. Kimbie or Modeselektor’s sets anyway). Oh well…