Live Review: Haunted Mansion - The Shrine - Los Angeles, CA
Wed, 05 Nov 2008 16:57:18
The people at HARD set about the ambitious task of packing a star studded lineup of indie electro acts into and around the Shrine Auditorium just outside downtown L.A. on Halloween. The HARD brand has been growing at an exponential rate, and the lineup for the Haunted Mansion was stuffed with high-card acts.
I got in early, avoiding the rumored tortuously long entry line, and managed to catch most of Daedelus' set, an act that most showgoers seemed unfamiliar with. His music is a progressive amalgam of experimental active-ambient and more beat driven dance music. His beat focused set was catered to the event, but the experimental aspects of his music were not lost. He makes his music via a Monome—a sequencing instrument that renders Daedelus as much of a musician as he is a DJ. It's like a square shaped keyboard where all of the keys trigger a progression and can make different sounds depending on what he has programmed in for that moment. Daedelus squeezed in samples of The Beach Boys, Nirvana, and Nine Inch Nails, all while blending styles and floating in between convention.
The crowd thickened immensely after Daedelus, as indie favorites Simian Mobile Disco were scheduled next. The British electro duo used an analog set-up to create a lot of their sound. They, along with Daedelus, are pushing electronic music out of the convention of "push play and then look busy," that has stifled the legitimacy of the genre's live shows in the past. They put on a solid performance and their light setup added to the ambiance well.
I caught a bit of Crystal Castles, who in my opinion are quite overrated. Their vibe and music aren't bad at all, but the vocals are entirely inexcusable. They've been likened to an electronic version of The Used, which is actually a laughably accurate description. All in all, they can't be seen as anything more than a much worse, American version of The Knife. Heading back from this, I caught DJ AM's attempt to put on a Daft Punk performance before stumbling into the surprise highlight of the night.
Soulwax hit the scene almost a decade ago, and at the time they seemed to be a rather good indie pop band. However, I was absolutely blown away by their performance at Haunted Mansion. They use live drums, often live bass, live vocals and keyboards to create an electro sound that's more organic than any of their peers. They performed a lot of their own material but offered solid, slick, and tight renditions of a number of electro classics, including one notable transition from Daft Punk's "Robot Rock" to Justice's "Phantom Pt. II". It is tradition for DJs to sample one another when they perform, but to watch Soulwax do it with live instrumentation and do it so much better than a DJ could was eye opening. They performed with a confident, controlled energy, and their visual aesthetic was classy and consistent from their outfits to their attitudes to their stage setup, backdrop, and light show. There can't be enough said about how excellent their performance was. This may have been one of the last stops on their current tour, but if you get a chance to check them out, they come highly, highly recommended.
Almost predictably, such a high has to be followed by an anti-climax. Justice's DJ set left a large amount to be desired. It took a good half hour to build up any significant buzz, and they hesitated to drop the beat on numerous occasions. The energy of their performance was static, which was surprising to see from such seasoned DJs. The set picked up towards the end, at which point they squeezed in a couple of hits, but by that point, I was at the back of the lot resting my legs near piles of youths at various stages of a drug induced haze/ecstasy/hell.
In its entirety, the event was a rousing success. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and the group consensus was one of unanimous pleasure. There were no moments spent idly passing the time, in fact, quite the opposite: there was very little time to check out new acts because I was busy scoping those I was stoked for. This all bodes well for the future of HARD, as their largest event yet was positively received all around.