New Yorkers are spoiled when it comes to indie rock. Night after night, venues throughout the city overflow with guitars, drums and bass. But for those who love beats and breaks, selections are more limited. Most unfortunate are those who aren’t 21, as the turntable goes hand-and-hand with the beer bottle. Studio B, the epicenter for most things electro, was recently shut down, and while shows have been moved to other locations, it doesn’t look as if their policies are changing any time soon – most fall shows are still 21+.
Booka Shade - Irving Plaza, August 1st
So, I applaud Irving Plaza’s recent if temporary conversion from, frankly, a place that lags behind the Bowery Presents circuit, to the host of some pretty cool electronic shows. Alas, I was naïve enough to take their “Doors at 9/Show at 10” listing on face value, and ended up coming three hours before Booka Shade came on. The silver lining was some pretty cool DJs. It's always exciting when you recognize a song being spun, and there were quite a few here.
MP3: Ellen Allien & Apparat – Jet
MP3: Junior Boys – Double Shadow (Kode9 Remix)
MP3: Orbital - Halcyon +On +On
MP3: Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
MP3: Simian Mobile Disco – Hustler
It was worth the wait; Booka Shade take live electronic music to a new level. Their set was propulsive, with Arno Kammermeier on electronic drums and Walter Merzinger on a variety of synths and electronics. Although their new album, The Sun & The Neon Light, places vocals in the forefront of a number of tracks, they wisely kept singing to a signature minimum. Aside from the addition of the blissful vocoder, courtesy of Walter, on "Charlotte," the only voices we heard was the cover of Laurie Anderson's "Oh Superman" and the rapid-fire "Cha-cha-cha!" on "Body Language (Interpretation)."
But instead of feeling alienated by what was mostly a programmed performance, that aesthetic of cerebral yet melodic electro-house was incredibly appealing. While their recorded work is measured by restraint - even the most anthemic basslines are relatively sparse - there was a gleeful excess here. Let's face it, the new album is on some level an attempt at pop-crossover and the reaction has been mixed (incidentally, it's funny - and perhaps telling - that those two reviews have almost identical leads). But their live show doesn't attempt such an iffy task: the duo are showmen, but they operate with the effectiveness of a more extroverted DJ set, with the sole focus of coaxing the crowd into a frenzy. It was euphoric.
MP3: Booka Shade - Charlotte
MySpace: Booka Shade
Official Site: Booka Shade