One of my favorite acts from last year’s festival was DJ Mary Anne Hobbs, and I was excited to see that she would be back this year. So, bucking the late trend of the past couple days, I made it down to Seattle Center just in time for the start of Hobbs’ set at dB in the Park. Hobbs mixed hip-hop, dubstep, house, and heavy techno, and proved skillful at using a sudden scratch break and pause to change up the rhythm and keep the crowd excited. Unlike many of the DJs and electronic artists, Hobbs was a lot of fun to watch: she was always bouncing a bit and often stepped back after setting something up to jump and wave her arms excitedly. Just before ending her set, she ran out into the crowd to dance and give high fives (I got a high five!), then got on the mic to thank the audience, saying she loved Seattle and would move here in a minute. We can only hope to be so fortunate.
Next up was Plastician, who relied on heavy slow beats in a hip-hop/dubstep style, generally slower than I usually like, but it was still good for dancing and he did drop some faster beats in the mix too. I was particularly amused when I recognized a vocal sample and realized after a couple minutes that it was the refrain to Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen,” not something I’d have expected. It was a very good afternoon, but I had to leave at 6 to get dinner before the night’s final shows.
The audience at Neumos was fairly light when I arrived just after 9:30 for the Decibel Finale: Dub My Soul showcase, no doubt due in part to it being a rainy Sunday evening as well as the festival’s end. Fax was onstage playing something with a guitar melody that sounded like a remix of a good rock instrumental, which was cool. I liked what I heard of his set, and the next artist, Luke Hess, played some good deep house as well, though it felt a bit monotonous at times.
There was a clean break when it was time for Monolake to set up, though he did start a basic beat right away and did not take long to start building it up. The music began with a sparse, spacey sound accompanied by spare black-and-white images resembling the starry sky or virtual matrices. Although the music was danceable, the mood of room also chilled out, with the audience reverting to bobbing in place rather than dancing. As I mentioned in Wednesday’s write-up, Monolake proved to be a strong contrast to Lusine: where Lusine’s music was warm, breezy, and welcoming, Monolake’s was dark, ominous, and cold. Midway through the set he included a bit of sampled dreamy vocals, a hint of warm keyboard chords, but always with a sense of vastness.
Monolake’s music was a soundtrack for the classic arcade game Tempest, music for vector-line graphics, and the visuals by Tarik Barri were more complex than that but still perfectly suited. While AudioPixel’s LED displays from last night’s D25 Showcase may have been the most exciting visual effect, Barri’s images were the best visual accompaniment to music that I saw all weekend. At the end of the set, Barri included closing credits for the video and audio technicians, which I thought was very classy. Perhaps Monolake and Barri should’ve been in an Optical Showcase, though then there wouldn’t have been dancing—and as Monolake built up intricate structures and faster rhythms, the dancing built up too.
I want to note that I did step into Sole Repair a couple times before and after Monolake’s set to check out the Bubblin’ Showcase, which with its mix of disco and soul seemed very aptly named, and it looked and sounded like a good time. However, I couldn’t abandon the finale in Neumos, where Pépé Bradock brought the mood up with a brighter, warmer sound, upbeat and airy, and kept the club dancing until close. It was a very satisfying ending to a fantastic five days at Decibel Festival 2010. Here’s to next year.