Last year, by the time Decibel Festival ended, I knew I wanted to attend this year’s event. I’ve been looking forward to it all summer, and it still exceeded my expectations: but with a full five nights of fantastic music and dancing, how could it not? This year’s event was also a challenge for me: with anywhere from three (Wednesday) to seven (Saturday) showcases each night (plus an official afterhours event on Friday and Saturday), how was I going to see all the exciting sets? The answer, of course, was that I couldn’t: there’s just too much to take it all in, and I just had to accept that I was going to miss out on some great sets I should’ve seen. The good news was that, with so many different showcases and artists, I was pretty much guaranteed to catch something cool every night.
Decibel Festival made that fairly easy this year with most of the venues clustered on Capitol Hill: Neumos, Sole Repair, the Baltic Room, Pravda Studios, Chop Suey, and the HG Lodge are all within quick walking distance of each other. The Optical Showcases at Benaroya Hall were in the afternoon/early evening, and the dB in the Park Showcases at Seattle Center were in the afternoon, so those didn’t present a big conflict with the rest of the showcases. The big loser was Motor down in SoDo, relatively far away from everything else, which basically meant either committing to being there for the evening showcases or skipping it altogether; I chose the latter, as there was so much else to see up on the Hill, but I did go to the afterhours shows there both nights.
Wednesday night’s Opening Gala at Pravda Studios was a pretty sedate affair, with a small crowd milling about, and laid-back music to match. It was more of a meet-and-greet affair with people picking up their festival passes, but a few were grooving to the beats as well. The room did fill in fairly well in time for the final set by KEXP’s own DJ Darek Mazzone, and the beats picked up a bit too. Mazzone paused at one point to say, “I gotta warn you, I play music that was not made by white people... It’s gonna get a little weird.” But despite that friendly warning, it was nothing too outlandish; after all, dance music has been borrowing from world beat for decades. Mazzone spun some good stuff, and it’d be nice to see him get a set next year in a showcase people will attend for its own sake.
Neumos was already pretty full downstairs at 10 pm for the Ghostly International Label Showcase, one of the most hotly anticipated events at this year’s festival. Mux Mool was finishing up his set with some pretty heavy beats that were a bit too harsh for me at the time without more lead-in, but definitely good to excite the crowd. Gold Panda at 10:30 started out much smoother, but shortly turned pretty heavy with noisy, glitch-rock beats, alternating with mellow breaks. I quickly learned not to stand directly in front of the speaker when the bodyshaking beat kicked in, and shortly decided to retreat upstairs. Finally it was time for Lusine, one of my favorite artists from last year’s Decibel Festival. His distinctive dreamy downtempo music was just what I wanted, and I enjoyed dancing to it. In retrospect, this light and breezy opening performance made a nice reflection to Monolake’s dark set during Sunday’s finale, a pair of perfect bookends.
I was outside Neumos for a bit after Lusine’s set and heard the beginning of Pantha Du Prince’s, which made me want to stay and listen. However, I felt I really should get down to the Baltic Room to check out a bit of the DNB Showcase headliner Klute. The Baltic Room was quite busy and I had to wait a few minutes to get in to hear the heavy drum ‘n bass that Klute was dropping. I realized that when I think of electronic dance music, this is pretty much the style that I think of first. By that time I felt kind of hot and tired and not into dancing in the crowd, but it was good to just stand and listen -- even if that made me a Seattle cliché. Besides, there would be plenty of dancing over the weekend.