For the second night of Decibel Festival 2013, I headed down to the Showbox SoDo for the Moby & Friends showcase, featuring of course Moby doing a DJ set, along with Blondes and the Loops of Fury. And Decibel Festival’s own Assistant Visual Director, Zach Walker, provided the very cool video projections to make this evening complete.
I arrived about halfway through Blondes‘ set to find a dark room matching their dark techno sound. I felt the audience was fairly sparse for a show starting at 10PM and featuring Moby, though a lot of people were hanging out in the bar area. I also thought there was very little dancing despite the cracking dance music; what is with Seattle audiences sometimes? But that said, it wouldn’t be fair to say the people who bothered to stand near the front were disengaged; after all, they were up front, and they were clearly into it. And even with the thumping beats, it was also music you could chill out to as well, perhaps explaining the overall cool vibe of the crowd. In any case, I enjoyed it quite a bit, a good opening for the evening.
The Loops of Fury brought things up with a brighter ’90s house sound, and the audience responded to their much stronger party-rave vibe with more active dancing. They were hitting all the classic elements of house raves: diva vocals break, check; breakbeat drums dropped in for variety, check; rising pianos, check; bit of heavy bass wub now associated with dubstep, check. I found it a bit relentlessly high-energy for me; I like a bit more variety, or perhaps just a different style. Still, they were pretty good and got the house moving.
Moby made sure we had no doubts as to his presence, opening with the “ooh Lordy” vocal sample from “Natural Blues” then immediately dropping heavy dark bass beats underneath. Suddenly I was reminded of the old SciFi Channel “I Am Sci-Fi” promo in which Moby used turntables to communicate with, and physically spin, the Close Encounters of the Third Kind UFO at Devil’s Tower. Such was the power of Moby as a DJ. Because this was billed specifically as a DJ set, I hadn’t expected to recognize much if anything; I’m not up to date on his recent releases, and I figured he’d stay away from his old hits. And as far as I could tell, that was mostly the case. But about halfway through he played a pretty radically remixed, but still recognizable and awesome, version of “Go”, and then again near his finale, he mixed in elements of “Porcelain”, both times keeping within the overall heavy drum and bass style he’d been playing. It was great to hear these familiar hits reworked in such interesting ways. As a DJ, he was very engaged, doing a lot of fist-pumping, crowd-pointing, and backing away from the table to jump a bit when he dropped the big beats. I think all the best DJs I’ve seen at Decibel Festival—such as the Wighnomy Brothers and Mary Anne Hobbs—have been like that, and it really makes a difference in the crowd’s enjoyment too. That extended to the end of his set, when he played the Thelma Louise disco hit “Don’t Leave Me This Way” as an outro while shaking hands with the stage-side audience. It was a thrilling set that left me very happy.
Afterward, I chose to skip the official Decibel Festival after-hours events for the unofficial one put on at Electric Tea Garden by Decibel Festival veterans the Sweatbox crew. I arrived in time to catch the tail end of Sweatbox co-founder Ctrl_Alt_Dlt‘s set, which was good as always. Next was the unexpectedly cool set by guest performer Caro, playing a mix of R&B/soul downtempo songs; halfway through, I moved closer to the front and realized he’d been singing and playing his own songs live the whole time, accounting for the weirdly disjointed feel it’d had up to that point—it was more of a concert than a dance mix. I was feeling pretty wiped out by then, and meant to catch just a bit of the next guest, Rrose. But Rrose’s dark low beats and slow build of rhythmic structures—akin to the sparse outer-space style of Monolake—were so compelling that I just had to stay and dance through the rest of the hour-long set. And then, sorry though I was to bail on final guest The Automatic Message, I fled home to much-needed rest.