For the final night of Decibel Festival 2013, Sunday September 29, I headed to the Crocodile for the Timetable Records showcase, featuring Nosaj Thing, with Lorn, Teebs, and D Tiberio. Aside from Nosaj Thing—a veteran of Decibel Festival I’d seen before — I was unfamiliar with the lineup and unsure what to expect. After the previous four days, I was also feeling a bit worn out, and took my time getting ready to go, leading to me heading out later than I’d intended.
I walked in at 10 and immediately regretted being late, because right from the first notes I heard, I really liked what D Tiberio was playing. Fortunately for me, I ended up getting a half-hour to enjoy, as he ended at 10:30 rather than the scheduled 10:15.
His cool dark techno was busy, in a good way — a lot going on that made it interesting to listen to as well as good for dancing. I found it bold, striking, present, not abstract and spaced-out. He worked with a variety of sounds and styles: synth washes and melodies among the thick beats and dark bass, later on mixing in the pianos and soulful vocals of house music. Speaking of dark, the room was barely lit by the backing video, but near the end of his set, a pair of lasers unexpectedly burst forth from beside the DJ table, and the lasers remained a part of the visual display for the rest of the evening. (Unfortunately, it was too little light and too late to get any decent photos of D Tiberio; the previous photo was taken later during Lorn’s set, the following photo of Teebs shows what it was like during D Tiberio’s set.)
Teebs had a slower building set, not as kinetic as D Tiberio, but still dense and layered. He had more of a dreamy trippy feel, even with some pretty heavy beats; trip-house, perhaps. He seemed to be playing a lot short songs, as there were frequent distinct changes in style and tempo from one to the next, though mostly they flowed without pause. A lot of people in the audience seemed to recognize particular songs, and it actually kind of bothered me how often they were clapping and yelling at every change; it was almost like being at a jazz concert, with the audience applauding after each performer’s solo, except more frequent and disruptive and with less obvious reasons for it. Teebs also was surprisingly talkative, chatting a bit before starting and then interrupting his set several times to ask how the audience was or talk a bit about what he was playing. So I felt there were a few too many distractions for me to really enjoy the performance. However, I could tell Teebs had a lot of interesting stuff, worth looking up for listening at home.
Lorn brought things back down to the serious business of dancing, with hard dark grooves. He was another talker, and it just felt so weird compared to the other acts over the weekend, even the ones like Moby that engaged the audience with excited gestures, to have Teebs and Lorn stopping their own music midstream to tell the audience, “You guys kick ass.” But I suppose it shows how important an engaged and enthusiastic crowd is to the performers—these guys couldn’t resist returning the love. In any case, Lorn was playing some heavy ’90s style house with dubsteppy bass washes, and between the music and the increasingly impressive laser display, the room definitely had a strong club rave feel. Toward the middle of his set, as he got into a more broken/disjointed style, with a lot of quickly fading the sound in and out for effect, I lost interest—people go crazy for that, so it’s not a bad choice, but I’ve never cared for it. He also brought the tempo down to rather slow rhythms that always make me feel like “lurching” is more apt than “dancing”. In Lorn’s favor, he didn’t spend a long time on any particular style, mixing things up fairly well. So I did want to stay through the set and see if he brought it back to something I’d enjoy more, but I was hungry and the craving for pizza trumped my curiosity.
I returned from my pizza break to find Nosaj Thing in full swing, with both the music and laser show having reached epic heights. It was a study in contrasts: just as he was in shadow between the bright video screen and lasers washing over the crowd, so was he playing dark jungle beats with light melodic elements, singing, and sonic washes. Calling back to D Tiberio’s set, Nosaj Thing’s music likewise called for attention: whether engaging the mind or moving the body, some part of the listener had to be involved, preferably both. And the audience lapped it up, dancing and cheering and having a great time. It seemed like he could easily headline a bigger venue; perhaps next year it’ll be his turn. It was definitely an amazing set to close out the festival: Nosaj Thing kept it fast and furious right to the end, and then gave the audience a smooth soul song as an outro to wind down the night. And with the rest of the crowd, I buzzed back out to the outside world, already looking forward to the next decade of Decibel Festival.