Well day 2 of the Decibel festival wrapped up for me yesterday and I can easily say that I’m fast falling in love with Seattle and its passion for electronic music. The entire Decibel Festival has been hands down one of the most organized and stress free festivals I’ve ever attended. Between the staff and volunteers who don’t even hesitate for a second to help you if you need it to the amazing venues and environments for the shows, these guys know how to put on a great event.
Day two was a bit of a hectic evening for my party; with goals of seeing Amon Tobin at the Paramount Theatre as well as the Night Slugs showcase at the Baltic Room, timing and some proper pre-planning was going to be essential to ensure we didn’t miss anything. The evening started with a walk up to the Baltic Room to get stamps for a friend who wasn’t able to get a Night Slugs ticket in advance. With the show having sold out before the festival even started, we had a feeling that it was going to be tricky to find out way in without a ticket.
We walked into the Baltic Room after being chatted up by the bouncers at the door (who could tell that we were not American and were quite interested in chatting after seeing our Canadian passports) to see sub|div’s own Monolithium up behind the decks. While the club was not overly packed for 10:30pm, which seemed unusual considering that all the advance tickets were sold out, the people in the club were watching with intent and totally engaged with Monolithium’s set. He moved through some grime, playing some unreleased tunes from Salva, Ango & Nouveau Palais. We stayed long enough to hear him drop his own track “Heat Pump” before leaving to head a block down the street to the Paramount Theatre.
As we arrived numerous people from all walks of life were milling out outside the venue. With Eskmo, TOKiMONSTA and Amon Tobin on the bill, it seemed to have brought out everyone from business professionals to the standard Seattle hipster right over to the gypsy hippies that you’d see in the Kootenays. Immediately upon walking into the theater I was struck with it’s beauty; a renaissance-inspired feel that gave the impression of a swanky night out at the opera. With beautiful figures and designs carved into the wall and ceiling, there was no shortage of distractions for the eyes. A positive note about coming in during the intermission right before Amon Tobin took to the stage, was that we were able to find seats quite easily (with no assigned seating, you were free to take a seat wherever you could find one).
We parked it and sat waiting patiently in anticipation for Amon to come on. The main stage had a large screen that had looping visuals of fun spacey geometric patterns with the Decibel logos dropped in at various points to keep those getting antsy slightly entertained as they waited. Before too long the screen began to lift and the music began to get slightly louder as the crowd vibrated with excitement; you could feel a pulse amongst the crowd as people began to made it well known they were ready to things to begin through whistling and cheers.
After an introduction to the festival by the host of the evening, along with a few house rules and another 10 minute wait, the lights began to fade out and the crowd began to loose it. As the curtains rose, the signature structure for the set sat elegantly on the stage without any lighting except a spot light that allowed everyone to drink in the “screen” upon which they’d be watching the show. After trying to figure out how best to describe it I can easily say that it looked like a labrynth of building blocks that formed what would appear to be a magical city.
The music started by fading in and out; roaring bass sliding in and then out in an almost teasing manner as the first visuals started to appear. The fading in and out with the music seemed to allow those watching a chance to absorb what they just saw as the multi-dimensional labyrinth on stage began to morph and shift; first into a static tv (like the thing you see when the cable is out) and then onto smoke and varying geometric patterns. As the show progressed, there was no shortage of people loosing their minds; the guy a seat over for me had saved a seat on either side of him so he could flail his arms madly to the beat without hitting anyone. Someone lit up a joint and filled the theater with the smell of marijuana which no one seemed to mind or do anything about.
While at first it wasn’t apparent as to where Amon Tobin actually was, a large box at the center of the structure lit up at times and you could see a man in the middle jamming out like those in the crowds. My initial reaction to the show was absolute awe; it was very easy to get lost in what you were seeing, almost as if you were watching a movie and Amon had scored the music. It felt like how one would describe a psychedelic trip minus the psychedelics. While many of the tracks I couldn’t pick out by name, only familarity, one of my favourite tracks was “Lost & Found” that featured visuals that could best be described as turn of the 20th century streetlights with fireflies buzzing around to the music.
We decided to leave the Amon Tobin show with about half and hour left in his set so we could jet up the road to catch the beginning of Girl Unit’s set. While we had wanted to catch Girl Unit and Bok Bok at the very least, I was quite stoked to walk into the Baltic Room and see Kingdom still ripping it up behind the decks. The dancefloor was packed – peeps were loving Kingdom’s distinct flavour of NYC-influenced bass and especially seemed to love the r&b/rap energy he injected into the room. Within 10 minutes Girl Unit started his set (although you wouldn’t have know if you hadn’t been watching as the music was continuous and there was no break or introduction for him). He carried on where Kingdom left off but picked up the tempo molding a sound that was decidedly more UK sounding, dropping Instra:mental’s anthem “When I Dip” amongst other huge heaters. I turned to my friend and asked “what would you even call this music?” and her response so aptly described it, “Whatever it is it’s sexy!”
By the time Girl Unit got to the stage the venue had begun to heat up and people were loosing their minds even moreso than when we got inside. I will say though, the folks on the dancefloor were super nice and mindful of their space; even as they were bruking out. Girl Unit’s set seemed to go on for longer than indicated on the schedule, which was perfectly fine for us, leading to Bok Bok not getting on until there was just over an hour left in the evening. Bok Bok played lots of techy/juke inspired sounds, most of which were quite familiar, and was in line with the rest of the music being played without feeling like it was too much of a good thing. He dropped one particular track that went off unlike any that he’d already done; a reworking of S-X’s “WooBoost” that featured a hip hop drop looped in the traditional juke fashion that I’d never heard, and judging by the crowd’s reaction neither had they!
While the entire evening was an absolute blast, the highlight for me came in the last 20 minutes as Kingdom, Girl Unit and Bok Bok each tagged teamed with one track each. By that time only the diehards were still sweating it out on the dancefloor and as I looked around the room it was a proud moment to see BC represented (~10 recognizable faces from the bass communities in Victoria and Vancouver) as well as 4 members from the sub|div familia.
All in all, my second day at the Decibel Festival was an amazing experience unlike any other. If the past two days are any indication of whats to come in the next two, I couldn’t be more excited.
– Amy (Dub Selekta / sub|division)
THX to XLR8R for photos as well as Dave Matthews (3rd picture down) and Heather Schofner (1st and 4th picture)