Certainly, the contentious central figure in this wave of “recession-era music” (as the New York Times rushed to call it) is the laptop. In partnership with the sampler, these two devices have done plenty to make the term “live” as suddenly meaningless as “indie.” Five years ago, a mid-song trainwreck like the one that brought SLEIGH BELLS’ show at the Mexican American Cultural Center to a silent standstill would have spelled disaster for a young band on the rise — but to the Brooklyn duo, it was, like, whatever: plug in the iPod, cue the same track, and we’re back. As long as the 20-second rule of technical difficulty resolution was honored, all was well. People were far more interested in Alexis Krauss’s agile vocals and turquoise leggings and Derek Miller’s beastly crunk-metal scaffolding than in whatever plug-in shat the bed this time — and rightly so.
SUN KISSED: New York City’s Tanlines rocked Lovejoys like Oingo Boingo goes to Ibiza.
The Brooklyn/Providence kitsch-hop duo JAVELIN brought only a couple of samplers, a bank of cheap drum pads, and a stack of spray-painted boomboxes to their back-yard show at the Shangri-La. But the dust kicked up in the ensuing dance party, plus the thick plumes of kind-bud smoke that rose through the sunlight, helped blur the line between their music and their bandhood — and doesn’t that just sound like how it should be?
The NYC duo of TANLINES also shook a packed Lovejoys with their unlikely alchemy of factory-preset tribal drums, shameless trance synths, and slack scrims of new-wavey guitar — it was like Oingo Boingo goes to Ibiza, and it all fit into a couple of bags when it was done. Columbia, South Carolina’s one-man chillwave hero TORO Y MOI transcended karaoke hazards at the Wave with just a few twists of a few knobs; his plainspoken pop songs dipped in and out of undulating electronics, and it was unpredictably unpredictable.
Reduced personnel is usually a boon to electronic music (too many DJs can result in disastrously mixed signals), but it often makes a rock band just sound understaffed. A day-long showcase of “Perfect Pairs” at the Red Fez played like a big “fuck you” to bassists everywhere, as Los Angeles art-rock magnates NO AGE led a bill including the deafening punk detonations of Vancouver’s JAPANDROIDS, the blog-sanctioned surf-pop of LA’s BEST COAST, and Baltimore’s trip-tastic ETERNAL SUMMERS. If there was a single qualm shared among the packed room, it was simply envy over how much more elbow room the bands enjoyed on stage compared with us. A low-key set from LA’s RUMSPRINGA on a porch perched high above a gulch had bikes pausing on the bridge to hear the highly satisfying Led Zeppy riffage of Joey Stevens mingling with the scattered electronic squiggles from Itaru de la Vegas’s MPC, as he carefully shielded its screen from the hard sun with his palm.
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