1 venue (Pearl Street, Northampton, Mass.,
October 19), 2 stages, 3 bands, 7 excuses…20 chords and the truth. Plus one
lovely concertgoer flipping her hair in the air like she just don’t care! (Pictured
above: the REAL Divine Fits, staring out the window in hopes that the BLURT
reviewer will turn up to chronicle their concert prowess.)
all of last Friday night at the wrong show.
planned to catch the Divine Fits, the new sparse, electro-funky super
collaboration between Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade’s Dan Boecker, New Bomb
Turks’ Sam Brown and Alexi Taylor. I’d been listening all week to A Thing Called Divine Fits, in fact, and
was kind of excited about seeing it in real life. But oh, terrible thing,
Divine Fits was downstairs and Conspirator, a Disco Biscuits electronic dance
side project, was upstairs, and I followed the crowds without thinking, up to
the big room, where a big synthesized bass drum was thumping already, four on
the floor loud enough to rattle your esophagus…as it would thump for the rest
of the night. I stayed up there for roughly three hours, in the vain hope that,
somehow, what I was hearing would align with what I expected to hear, and
sadly, figured it out only around midnight, when Divine Fits had already
I be so stupid? How could I not know the difference? Here are seven excuses,
all pretty lame:
A Thing Called Divine
by far the most electronically rooted thing that Britt Daniel has ever
done…maybe he really likes drum ‘n bass and wanted to tour with bands like
opening band is something called Strobe Horse, which is a mostly electronic
local band…the kind of outfit that could
very well use laptops and
keyboards and drum machines.
a drum kit behind the mountains of speakers, which I look at hopefully
throughout the evening, as one act after another relies on programmed and
sampled beats. (Conspirator uses live drums.)
Britt Daniel were ever to dress up
in sun-glasses, a furry top-hat and feather boa, don’t you think he’d look sort
of like this?
main problem with Spoon live has always been how much it sounds like the
records. How can I complain if Divine Fits sounds completely different from the record?
bands are, apparently not big on between-songs banter. I don’t think any of
them said anything all night, not
even, “We’re X band. Buy our records.”
it possible that scads of scantily clad late-teenagers, all hands up in the air
and making sexy swimming-dance movements, one of them flipping her waist-length
hair continually in my direction (and occasionally in my face), I think more as
a territorial thing than a come-on…Isn’t it just imaginable that these kids
might have turned out for Divine Fits? Well, maybe not.
apologies to Divine Fits – and if you want to read know more about them, you
should definitely check out BLURT’s Alli Marshall’s feature – here’s what I saw and
heard at the Conspirator show last Friday.
As I get
there, ABAKUS is in the middle of
one of two sets. ABAKUS is one guy with a laptop,
playing pounding, pummeling beats and bathed in blue light. The crowd is
sparse, so far, but noticeably young. There are two girls, decked out in
multicolor tights and swoopy scarves, doing some sort of semi-choreographed
dance near the front of the stage, lunging and twirling and curling their limbs
with the music. There is lots of room for this, early on, most of the audience
still hanging out just past the blue lights that spill off the stage, watching
the girls dance and waiting for things to get underway. ABAKUS, I find out
later, is Dave Davies’ son.
break, and a lot of set up, just a massive amount of plugging wires into boxes
and boxes into outlets, as a set-up of one synthesizer keyboard deck and one
guitar emerges. An aquamarine-colored feather boa hangs from the mic
the arrangement for BoomBox, a
Muscle Shoals-based duo with Russ Randolph behind a massive rig of
synthesizers, samplers, keyboards and computer equipment, Zion Rock Godchaux on
pulls all kinds of elements into their beat-centric sound, layering laid-back
licks over boom-cha beats, scents of reggae, Afro-beat, blues, funk, kraut and
disco wafting over belly-shivering rhythms. We seem to be on kind of a roll
with people’s kids here – both Godchaux’s parents played with the Grateful Dead
in the 1970s.
way, on the subject of kids, it is about this time that a nice young man comes
over and asks me if I’ve got children at the show….)
some initial confusion, I am pretty sure that Boombox is not Divine Fits, but I
have not quite given up on them being Strobe Horse and for Divine Fits to
eventually come out and take over the guitar-bass-drum-electronic set up that
is clearly waiting for the final act. ABAKUS does another set, this time to a
much larger, more packed and participative crowd. There are lots of arms waving
around, and one girl climbs up onto the stage to dance in front of an amp. The
girl with the hair is beckoning, siren-style to the guy taping down set lists.
standing near by notices that I am not really getting into things, and says,
“Are you ever going to dance?” I shake my head, and he says, “Well, what are
you doing here?” And I tell him I’m taking some photos and then I’m going to
move back. It occurs to me that house/rave/electronic girls are much less
conflicted about their bodies than indie rock girls, more convinced that the
show is about them, and the way they move, rather than about the music being
made. “Could you move over?” says my friend with the long, much-tossed hair,
because, you know, she owns that part of the floor. She does a backbend so that
her hair drapes over the stage in a shimmery fan.
So, I wait
for the DJ set to be over, and for the main band to start. Which I hope will be
Divine Fits. I am really, really excited about live drums by this point,
anything but the BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM that’s been playing all night. Then Conspirator comes out, and I realize
what an asshole I am.
even though there is a real drummer, even though he has kind of a punk-ish
Mohawk, he is definitely not Sam Brown, and beefy guitarist Chris Michetti cannot,
in any way, be taken for Britt Daniels. Dan Boecker is a skinny, indie-looking
guy, isn’t it? He’s not here either.
as it turns out, is an electronic/house/dance offshoot of the Disco Biscuits,
formed in the mid 00s by bassist Marc Brownstein (he plays a six-string) and
keyboard player Aron Magner. They start with “So Much More” a hard-rhythmed,
piano banging trance inducer interspersed with shreddy guitar solos. You can
hear all kinds of stuff in the cuts that follow – space rock, fusion, metal,
jazz and arena-sized guitar riffs. I move back, because I’m getting the fish
eye from the girl in front, and also because the sound is a little muddy right
by the stage, but it’s not much better further away.
there, it’s not such a big move to slip out the door and down to the ticket
area, where I can just see someone emerging from the smaller, downstairs facility
with a vacuum. “Was there another show tonight?” I ask, as I head for the door.
“Yes, but it’s been over for a while.”
Conspirator is just getting started.