A few things Prince Rama – show openers at the Independent last night – and Gang Gang Dance – headliners – have in common: a whole lot of rhythm, standing tribal drumming (Gang Gang also has a more Western seated drummer), psychedelic visuals (damn, should have brought those drugs the kids take), and high, reverberating, Bollyhood-recalling vocals.
Sanskrit chanting-synth act Prince Rama, somewhat of a baby-Gang Gang-in-training, had a lesser stage show, but the crowd still dug it. As noted by Taraka and Nimai Larson, their families were in attendance (I peeked a whole lot of them dancing up front and in the balcony) – wait, are they really sisters? No matter, midway through the set, there was a trust fall, during the song "Trust," off the band's newest release Trust Now (Paw Tracks). That's a whole lot of trust for such a sparse front row. Also on stage: the folded-over visuals producer, mixing warped live feeds of the Larson girls, eerily recalling Grace Slick's color-saturated turn in Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit."
Gang Gang had such a strangely unceremoniously beginning, each musician casually making their way to the stage, then slowly grabbing the instruments; with singer-percussionist Lizzi Bougatsos – wearing an over-sized skeleton vest, winged patterned blouse, and killer heels – holding up a large drum and banging. It did help build momentum, likely the point. Once the thumping bass and beats got going, it was a memorizing set, full of rave-like whimsy and "positive energy" (the floating triangle projected on the screen behind included those words, and vibrated with the rest of the sound). Bougatsos moved effortlessly from standing drums to mic to rhythmic dance-off with peculiar on-stage "spirit guide" Taka Imamura (who spent much of the set maneuvering a plastic bag covered stick). The wicker-tree-hat-dance was an odd moment, but thankfully brief.
Gang Gang played nearly every song off newest release Eye Contact (4AD), and saved the older tracks for the encore. All the while, a figure in one of those Scream masks filmed from the sidelines and drank straight tequila. Clearly, an entertaining night. Though I can't help but recognize that the areas of the crowd where plumes of smoke rose were likely having the most fun.
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