Live Review: Ghostland Observatory @ Showbox SoDo 11/12

Ghostland Observatory at the Triple Door in 2009 - photo by Christopher Nelson

There was a frenzy of activity on the sidewalk in front of the Showbox SoDo on Friday night. Both the line for will call and the line to get in were long and slow-moving, and there was an interesting mix of fans, young and old, pysched-out and straight-looking, all milling around outside, smoking their last cigarettes before entering the venue. The opening DJ was still playing when we finally made our way inside, so we headed to the bar area to meet up with some friends. I was scared to think about even trying to jostle for position at the SoDo’s always hotly congested bar, but fortunately I was already primed and ready to enjoy myself. For better or for worse, I ended up with a cocktail in my hand anyway, and after chatting around for a bit, we sensed Ghostland Observatory was coming on and made our way down the stairs to the main floor.

Once we joined the crowd, a few of us shuffled laterally from the bar, so that we were in front of the stage, albeit a ways back. This proved crucial as Ghostland’s laser show was one of the highlights of the night, and when viewed from the side of the stage, it was hard to get the full effect, as everything was projected straight outwards. Aaron Behrens and Thomas Turner led off the set with “Glitter,” the catchiest track off their latest release Codename: Rondo, and the party was officially underway. Like most in attendance, we were hoping to hear our favorites from Ghostland’s stellar debut album Paparazzi Lightning, which is just plain more inspired, more badass, and dancier than their subsequent releases. We were excited, then, to hear them continue with “Piano Man,” “Stranger Lover,” and “Vibrate.”

The sound was amazing, hands were flying and bodies were jumping all over the place, and, like I said, the laser display put us in a bass-fueled, Technicolor wonderland. Dazzling displays of concentrated beams of light were fanning out and criss-crossing feet above our heads the entire night, all synced up perfectly with the music. There were also times when an array of lasers would turn a single color, imagine blue, and fix themselves in a kind of three-dimensional spider web all over the stage, like they were protecting the entrance to a vault or something. I half-expected Catherine-Zeta Jones to roll out from offstage in black spandex and contort here way through the beams to the other side (apologies for the dated Entrapment reference).

While the light show was great, it would have been all for naught if it wasn’t for Ghostland frontman Aaron Behrens’ stage presence. Instead of wearing his hair in his trademark Indian braids, he let it hang down, and this, along with his sunglasses and wild-man demeanor, made him look like a cross between himself and Russell Brand. He was in constant motion on stage, pacing back and forth, bending over and playing to the fans in front, and bending back and wailing at the ceiling -- he delivered all the antics you’d hope to see from an energetic lead singer trying to get people to move. Producer and beat maker Thomas Turner was in fine form as well. He donned his trademark Dracula collar, and wore a Texas flag as a cape (Ghostland are from Austin), which, when adorned vertically, looks less like a symbol of the South and more like something Evil Knievel would wear.

They continued to play heavily off Paparazzi Lightning, including an amazing jammed-out rendition of “Midnight Voyage,” as well as some other material off Codename: Rondo and Robotique Majestique, all of which sounded great. For an encore they brought the house down with “Sad Sad City,” leaving everyone with plenty of time to hit a few bars up after leaving the show. Unfortunately, the aforementioned cocktail I found in my hand before the show ended up being for worse (there might have been a few more after that), and my night was cut short. Seeing Ghostland Observatory absolutely kill it at the Showbox SoDo was enough to keep me from sweating it though.

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