At Club Nokia on Sunday night, the show was opened by Kilo Kish, a pretty rapper/singer from New York. Think Ke$ha but way more indie. Next to come on was Syd the Kyd, from the duo The Internet and Odd Future. She performed a DJ set.
DJ sets often run the risk of sounding underwhelming, but Syd the Kyd was surprisingly good at picking and mixing interesting songs. The crowd loved her. If nothing else it was proof that playing “Milkshake” by Kelis is a guaranteed way to bring the crowd to your yard.
At 11pm came the headliner, London-based SBTRKT (pronounced “Subtract,” for you old people). SBTRKT is an EDM producer and DJ with a glint of soul behind his eye. His songs fuse elements of neo-soul, Europop, house, dubstep, hip-hop and R&B to create songs that are accessible yet complex enough in their composition.
The set began with SBRTKT and Sampha, his oft-featured vocalist, on stage behind a large transparent veil. The lights set-up behind them transformed their bodies into silhouette figures as they played “Heatwave,” the opening instrumental track from SBTRKT'S self-title 2011 debut. The song pulsed and, just as it climaxed, they quickly transitioned into “Never Ever” as the veil dropped. The crowd ate it up.
Sampha was more impressive than we were expecting, more than just a featured vocalist performing over a beat. He had his own rig of instruments set out in front of him, using midi keyboards and electronic pedals to contribute to the layers of sound, even on the songs that didn't feature his vocals. “Hold On,” one of the popular tracks from the album, began with Sampha live-looping his voice, harmonizing with himself over a three-part melody. Pretty cool.
Sometimes his vocals fell short of the passion captured on the SBTRKT record, such as on “Hold On.” At other times, like on “Right Thing To Do” (performed by Jessie Ware on the album), he outdid the album.
What differentiates SBTRKT's live show from other EDM artists is the dynamicity he brings. Electronic artists live can often be monotonous; watching a DJ hit the play button isn't exactly suspenseful. With SBTRKT, however, you often get the feeling that he's creating the music in front of you, what with his complicated mixing table and the fact that he played drums on most of the songs.
Sampha also had a mini percussion set of his own, and the combination of their drum beats over the electronic beats was the created a veritable ocean of sound.
The Crowd: Crazed EDM fans, L.A.'s young and sexy, and the hippest high schoolers ever.
Random Notebook Dump: Club Nokia is a pretty fancy venue. Like, it looks pretty upscale and classy. It was amazing to see how quickly a bunch of tipsy teenagers could turn it into a post-apocalyptic battlefield.