What: Baths (with Braids and Gobble Gobble)
When: March 5th, 2011
Last night local electro beatmaker Baths aka Will Wiesenfeld played a sold-out show at the Troubadour. Quite a feat for any local artist, but for one who at the tender age of 21 went from obscurity last year to the top of many critics' lists, it must be very satisfying.
The entire lineup Saturday night at the Troubadour had been anointed by the golden glow of promise, which is bestowed only on bands that have been listed as "Bands to Watch" by a fair number of blogs and finally given the green light to play a plethora of SXSW showcases. It's that intangible hype wave that many are so desperate to catch and once caught try so hard to live up to and convert into real success.
First up was Gobble Gobble, a young band from Edmonton, Alberta who was given the distinct honor of having a line of fans stretch all the way down Santa Monica Blvd and wrap around Doheny at 8:30pm on a Saturday night. To get any Angeleno to go to a show before ten is very impressive. To get them to dance when the clock strikes nine, is nigh impossible.
Gobble Gobble was not interested in taking prisoners. They saw all those standing against the wall with their arms folded as a challenge. They were going to make you dance whether you liked it or not. In near pitch blackness two young men appeared on stage, one in white glasses with fairy wings attached to his back and one who was stripped to the waist and wearing white pants and a tutu. The young man with fairy wings, lead singer Cecil Frena, reached out into the crowd, fingers glowing with neon sticks, and brushed the front row before the first note was even played. It was almost like a shot across the bow--this show is going to be interactive whether you like it or not.
Attacking his instruments like a man possessed, Frena chopped up poppy synthesizer melodies with robotic yips and burbles while singing in a high pitched voice reminiscent of Passion Pit. His drummer beat the hell out of an electronic drum kit, and then from deep within the crowd a giant white drum appeared. The real merrymakers were hiding inside the crowd and like sprites from the forest, jumped on stage in white tutus.
Their implements of destruction included a crown of glow sticks, a shovel covered in white gauzy fabric, sticks festooned with white streamers, a giant white drum, and a blow-up ghost with eyes in the shape of horseshoes. Half of the band was there to create the sound and the other half was there to bring the party. And by God they did. With coordinated dance moves, stage diving, and beating on any available surface (including helmeted band members), Gobble Gobble whipped the Troubadour up into a froth. At nine thirty. A solid reminder to always come early to a show, you never know what's going to show up.
Fellow Canadians Braids were up next with a tall order: facing a crowd that's sweaty and ready to dance with a set that was, well, mellow. It was a task that they met with grace. The four-piece band set up in a semicircle on stage. With voices that would make angels envious as the guiding force, Braids put together a set of experimental pop that threw everything at you.
Looping keyboards, guitars, and all sorts of sound effects--it was a set that hummed and pulsed with unexpected ideas. Like a mixture of Animal Collective and Broken Social Scene, these four created wave after wave of melody, playfully speckled with unexpected burbles and chirps, which began and ended in unusual places. Not all of the ideas were good ones, but for the most part the tunes that stuck were mesmerizingly pretty. The only real shame was none of the lyrics could be understood and those lovely voices should be singing something powerful.
The star of the night strode through the blue mists around eleven with a large bewildered grin on his face, almost as if he were confused by the cheers that greeted him. "I haven't done anything yet," he said when he reached the mic. To look at, Baths is a fairly unassuming operation. A young man with impressive sideburns and a table full of gadgets. That's it. But once it's up and running, the speakers explode.
It's always exciting watching the insides of someone's brain pulse through a room. The depths of Baths' imagination was on display in all of its sternum-crushing glory. With massive bass, drum beats, chopped up samples, static clicks, and his high vocals, Weisenfeld created a world of sound within the Troubadour that everyone could get down with.
Lurching back and forth, frantically turning the knobs like a mad scientist, Baths created this monstrous dance beat under a current of nice-guy sweetness. "Did you guys see the reflex of me pushing my glasses up and poking myself in the face because I'm not wearing them?" Weisenfeld asked self consciously, laughing to himself. "And now I can't find my glasses in the dark. What a professional! Here's to professionalism."
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Unlike a lot of artists, Weisenfeld has no interest in putting up a screen and pretending to be something he's not. There's no persona to hide behind other than a stage name. Watching the show was like watching the insides of Wiesenfeld's soul turned inside out in its entire unfurnished splendor. It's hard to say what the crowd liked more: the interesting beats or the charismatic nerd behind them.