Live Review: Simian Mobile Disco at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 8th December 2012

By on Tuesday, 11th December 2012 at 2:00 pm

In 2009, I internally through a temper tantrum when I saw the line-up for Manchester Warehouse Project that autumn. My then biggest obsession, Friendly Fires, were playing and curating a night just days before my birthday. And the month before featured a night the first weekend of October starring Simian Mobile Disco, who were relishing in the popularity of ‘Temporary Pleasure’, released in August of that year. Such is the life of a music writer who lives a good 3,000 miles away from the land of music that she loves: I had to forgo both shows and always wondered when I’d get to see SMD live and not as DJs. Two years ago, they played a very late show at 9:30 Club on a Sunday night that I had to decline going to; you have to work to pay the bills (and pay for trips to music festivals abroad). So when I heard they were bringing a special tour to North America in late November into early December where they were playing live and not just DJaying, and there was a DC date on a Saturday night, I couldn’t have been more stoked. You see, DC isn’t known as the big dance city I wish it was, and many a dance act has passed over us in favour of the more traditional dance markets of New York, Miami and LA. So when opportunity knocks in the case of an electronic band I like, I take advantage whenever I can.

Starting the evening were two sets by DJs. The first was by Taxlo (Baltimore guys Simon Phoenix and Stereo Faith); the second was by JDH and Dave P, who have become famous for their Fixed dance night in New York City. While both sets brought heavy beats and there was plenty of bumping and grinding happening out on the dance floor and loads of people, straight and gay, were having a whale of a time even before the headline act, I couldn’t get past the use of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ being mixed and mashed up as dance music. Fleetwood Mac is one of those bands I hold very sacred and as much as I like dance music, it totally weirded me out. Just…don’t. I was also not impressed with the cans that the two sets of DJs had to share for the evening; was the sound really that bad, either through the headphones or through the club’s soundsystem that really required the DJ’s head to be so uncomfortably cocked to one side to hear properly? I’ve never DJayed myself so maybe this is just par for the course, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any one so uncomfortable with the gear being used.

Being winter, there were loads of people with their jackets and I know when most people dance, they need to get drunk first so they aren’t self-conscious with what they perceive as their less than great dance moves (you guys are all fine, I’m telling you! Let the music take your body where it wants to go!), but I didn’t appreciate getting bumped up against the wall by people making their way to the loo. And back. Watch where you’re going… But I stuck it out for Simian Mobile Disco.

To be honest, I hadn’t investigated what exactly “live” meant when it came to the SMD show, so when Cheryl asked me, I just said, “it’s got to be more than just turntables. I’m expecting at least a guitar.” Was a little disappointed to see a bunch of equipment cases stacked and opened out on stage? Yeah, I was some, even though I’m fully aware that SMD are an electronic act – I guess I was more thinking along the lines of Miike Snow, who are also electronic and play “live”. On the other hand, while James Ford and Jas Shaw did what they do best, you could see they were master technicians, knowing when and which buttons on sequencers to press, and whatever else they were doing to synths, dials and other magic boxes they had hidden in those equipment cases that we couldn’t see. They obviously had a lot of equipment, as they dabbled from case to case, sequencer to sequencer.

The complicated, multi-coloured lighting rig – which blinded poor Cheryl a number of times – reflected their higher stature on this visit to our country, as did their massive tour bus parked squarely in front of the club. (Which never happens, because the bands that do play RNR tend to be of the super indie variety, with insufficent funds to be driving around such a fancy vehicle around the States). While the light show wowed the crowd, I think we were too close to the stage to be able to really enjoy and take in the whole spectacle.

And then to the music. Love it or hate it, EDM (electronic dance music) is here to stay and judging from the inaugural Electronic Music Conference (EMC) 2012 that was taking place in Sydney during my time down under, everywhere – including the Asian-Pacific region – are looking to electronic music to be the next big thing in music. Until a brief slowdown in which Ford and Shaw regrouped and brought out the vocals of the Gossip‘s Beth Ditto from ‘Temporary Pleasure’ standout track ‘Cruel Intentions’ to massive crowd approval, for some odd reason I just wasn’t feeling the music as much as I thought I should have upon my first glimpse and listen to Simian Mobile Disco ‘live’. There was a high energy vibe to their whole show, but I guess because I was stuck on one side of the stage and pretty much had Ford’s back to me the entire time, and therefore never could see what Shaw was doing with his analogue modular synth, I missed out on that part of the action. Here’s a scary thought: I dunno, maybe I am growing up (and getting old) in my assessment of electronic music because I’ve heard so much different stuff in the last 3 years?

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us

Privacy Policy

Keep TGTF online for years to come!
Donate here.