Cecil Frena described the lineup at Rickshaw Stop last night simply as "weird music." He should know. Performing with his synth-fueled electronic dance trio, Born Gold (formerly Gobble Gobble,) Frena stood in front of a camera-slash-iPad pulpit, singing and conducting a third of the group’s sound via a motion-captured, clearly homemade, Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation era-esque military jacket.
Definitely the strangest thing I’d seen all night, until Born Gold started its second song, at which point one of the other members strapped on a pair of stilts and began marching through the audience, playing a custom instrument consisting of a Roland SP-404 affixed to a snow shovel blade. The lighting for the theatrical set was either pitch black or blazing multicolored strobes, including a pair of handhelds that Born Gold used to blind part of the audience after covering them with a black tarp.
In more subdued moments Born Gold did synchronized dances with folding fans or put on helmets and beat each over the head with drum sticks. As much as I noticed the music with all that going on, I’d say Born Gold was a decent fit with the first opener, Yalls. Yalls’s Dan Casey also played largely vocal driven electronic, although typically at a slower tempo and with a quirkier, less sexy lyrical sense. (Did Yalls just say something about living off the pennies in his moustache?) The clipped female R&B samples that made up a sizable portion of one of his beats recalled the time that Ben Gibbard dug up J Dilla’s grave to form the Ghostal Service and cut a chillwave album.
It was clear that most people in the sold out crowd were there to see the very buzzed about Grimes, particularly the wave of hardcore photographers who emerged and cut to the front just before the night’s second to last act, oOoOO (pronounced, by Frena as “Oh, upper case and lower case.") With a heavy, grim quality that thematically might have fit with Grimes, in terms of the night’s lineup oOoOO was just slotted wrong, as the set was an experiment in how slow one can go. The answer? Really fucking slow. Put a cassette of dirty hip hop — with lots of syncopated hi hats and claps — into a boombox, wait for the batteries to die, record the last ten seconds, loop it, and you’ll get the idea. It’s perfect music to use when training your sloth Barbara to give a lap dance.
Still, it was fairly amazing watching the pros go to great lengths to get the perfect shot of oOoOO’s parka, although the one next to me spent most of the set texting and updating her blog, which was maybe less insulting to the musician than when she was playing Words with Friends while Release to the Sunbird opened for the Flaming Lips the night before. Hopefully as a joke, oOoOO ended his set by throwing the bouquet of flowers from the cover of Power, Lies & Corruption into the audience. Grimes was on after. She performs with the same sort of spread arm, ambidextrous style as the keyboardist from Battles, and met expectations. She had support from Born Gold, as well as a sinister, largely vestigial dancer, whose main move consisted of adjusting her hood. Weird.
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