Toronto rave gods Crystal Castles are known for their brutally intense live show. Alice Glass smokes nearly an entire pack of cigarettes on stage and makes some good progress on a bottle of Jack Daniels, while Ethan Kath barely looks up from his table, making sure that every pulsing bass drop shakes the building to its foundation and keeps the energy at impossibly high levels. But during the band’s first round of support for their 2012 record, III, late last year, Showbox SODO couldn’t quite handle the band and things got out of hand. While the music itself was great, serious crowd crush happened and not everybody in the warehouse had the greatest time. So for all Seattle Crystal Castles fans, the announcement that the band would be playing at the Moore Theatre was a godsend. Naturally preventing serious crowd mobbing and giving everyone in the building a perfect view of the action onstage and in the mosh pit, Crystal Castles’ latest stop in Seattle was perhaps their all time best. With a great opening set by Denver producer Pictureplane, Tuesday night was a baptism of goth electronic madness, and Crystal Castles wouldn’t have it any other way.
In the last five years, Travis Egedy has been making a serious name for himself as Pictureplane, tying a love for the classic rave scene with a more progressive experimental electronic vibe. Withe larger success of his 2009 record Dark Rift and the excellent single “Goth Star”, Pictureplane has been perfecting his live show and gaining a larger and larger following. Tuesday night’s performance was no exception. In the dark red light on stage, Egedy floated across his setup, triggering different tracks and sounds and laying vocals over the complex landscape of electronic noise. Keeping the energy up, Pictureplane was a perfect opener for Crystal Castles, and the overlap of Castles fans and potential Pictureplane listeners may have given him a couple new fans.
After playing the entirety of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures over the speakers at full volume (followed by the first couple tracks of Closer), smoke flooded the stage, all set for Crystal Castles to dominate it. As the lights went down, smokey clouds prevented most onlookers from understanding whatever was going on onstage. But out of nowhere, Ethan appears in the mist and starts up “Plague”. Then, on far stage left, a bright purple bob appears with a ponytail sticking out the top. As Alice walks up to the microphone, shouts erupt from the crowd and weight presses forward against the much needed stage barrier. As the verus transitions into the chorus, noise explodes into pulsing dance beats and the Moore explodes into dance.
As a frontwoman, Alice Glass may not sing a ton of jaw-dropping licks and command attention to herself exclusively, but her constant stage hop and crowd interaction makes Crystal Castles’ live show an interactive and completely enticing experience. Alice is essentially just the lively, more colorful, vocal personification of Ethan’s skeleton beats. The ghostly nature of both combined with a murderous omnipresent dance beat makes the Crystal Castles show a dark, memorable evening.
This time around, the band cut out a couple of tracks off of new record III like “Affection” and “Insulin” to make room for a more balanced offering from all three albums. This, of course, was everything that the crowd could hope for. After all, each of Crystal Castles’ LPs give listeners a very different experience that ties into their larger identity. The 8-bit dance excitement of the 2008 self-titled, the brutal rave punk turn of “Crystal Castles”, and the ominous, raw power of III - each is its own beast. But wherever fans were coming from this evening, everyone went away happy. With a stellar set including a medley DJ’ed by both Ethan and Alice at the same time, there was nothing lacking from their set.
Crystal Castles never stop touring, and sure enough they’ve already announced their next return to Seattle, which will happen at Bumbershoot on Saturday, August 31. Their show is a rave experience unlike any other that brings fans of all genres together to dance the night way. As the band left and the lights went up, Joy Division’s “The Eternal” replaced leftover speaker noise as the crowds headed up the ramps and out the door. Until next time, check out our photos below!