Zola Jesus, Shabazz Palaces, and more at Creators Project


Along with all the epic-sized Lite-Brites and wing-flapping guardian angels at Creators Project this weekend in soggy Fort Mason, there also was plenty of super bass-heavy, heart-pumping, mind-expanding live music. Again, all free.

In the airport-hanger openness of midday in the Festival Pavilion — after a brief, freak hale storm outside — a loud, high-pitched electro-clatter came ringing down the forever long row of speakers. The culprit being Bejing indie rock act, New Pants.

With rapid energy the band bounced through hyperactive synth pop “punk disco,” while video projections by new media artist Feng Mengbo flashed on the screen behind. I most recall one song nearly matched up lyrically with clips from Spongebob Squarepants — the lyrics inexplicably being “I am not gay. Gay gay gay gay gay” and later, New Pants singer Peng Lei in a white button-up smashing a computer on stage, much to the small gathering crowd’s amusement.

After a quick trip back through the "Origin" cube and a saucy vegan tofu burger with pineapple from an Off the Grid truck (Koja Kitchen), I crawled back through the slightly more filled up hanger for always-entertaining LA noise band, HEALTH.  As far as I’m concerned, the best parts of HEALTH were the drumming and the headbanging, which went hand in hand.

The experimental sounds, the mixed vocals, the frantic live show, it was great — but the drummer just killed it, and when another band member picked up the sticks to drum along in pummeling unison, it was near blistering perfection. And to my other point, I just like seeing bands headbang on stage, especially in this odd setting (still bright and light outside, still relatively empty in the enormous space). 

There was one true fan in the crowd — though I’m sure more were there, just possibly bodily contained — that couldn’t help but headbang along with dark flowing hair flying, jump methodically in place, and throw a near-empty cup of beer, much to the chagrin of the nerds around him.

The Antlers followed, and were rather unexciting. It was just that mild, lovely indie rock from a former blog buzz band, suitable for impassioned scenes on nighttime soaps. Though they played it well, not a whole lot of heat.

Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces brought the fun back. While the music off last year’s Black Up is sometimes playful, there’s a refined dynamic in the act, laid out by the casual-close interplay and synchronized dancing between smooth lyricist-808 controller Ishmael “'Palaceer Lazaro” Butler (once of ‘90s jazz-rap group Digable Planets) and bongo slapping multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire. Lots of grooving followed, and some memorably awkward white boy shoulder jerks of free-form dance in the crowd.

After a round of sweet potato tator tots from Brass Knuckle, it was Zola Jesus mind-melting time.  And just in time to catch that powerfully operatic voice soaring through moving single “Avalanche” off Conatus.

The diminutive vocalist, wrapped in her usual flowing, cape-y white frock, spread her winged-arms out wide during high notes, giving the illusion of a bird about to take flight, or an eerily angelic force, like the inverse of the black angel in Chris Milk’s interactive installation in the nearby Herbst Pavillion.

She was the first act of the day able to truly transcend the challenges of the wide-open space fighting the elements (outdoor rain, shots of wind through open doors, free concert-itus causing general disinterest).  Though that also could have been because the sun was finally officially down, and the true crowds were finally there, more efficiently using the room to huddle. 

And this is when a balding elder with a badge around his neck began holding up his camera and filming Zola Jesus’ set. And it was right in front of me. And then I was watching the floating eerie angel through his tiny screen.

With general media personnel, bloggers, reporters, Intel people, and VICE people all there with a barrage of fancy cameras with huge lenses, or iPads, or iPhones snapping away all day, it felt like nearly everyone was there to document the event. If not for a specific outlet, most definitely for some form of social networking.

It left me wondering, who was there to simply absorb the magic in real-time?  Who came for fun? Are we all part of some scary dystopia in which nothing happens but documentation? But also, perhaps paradoxically, who cares? This was a great event, tying together master creators in the worlds of technology, art, music, and food. Who am I to shit on that?

Left pondering this, I realized: my cheeks were frozen stiff, my belly ached from fried foods, and my ugly sniffling cold was rearing its ugly sniffling head. It was time to go home. Luckily, my photographer stayed behind to document Squarepusher and Yeah Yeah Yeahs for those who missed it real-time.


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