Friday, October 12, 2012

Crystal Castles fan outreach leaves Marathon Music Works smushed

Going to see Crystal Castles? Hope you don't value personal space.

The Canadian electro-noise group have never been big on being conventional, but it's a tough task to think of shows that get this wild. They blend together several layers of highly dissonant electronic music while also being very danceable and rave oriented. They can go from being noisy and abrasive to highly stylized and atmospheric.

But at the center of it all, Crystal Castles share a bond with their fans most bands don't have.

Bathed in brilliant light, Alice Glass put her crowd into a trance.

The majority of fan obsession centers on vocalist Alice Glass. Since getting kickstarted in 2006, Glass has cemented herself as one of the most exotic, alluring and mysterious figures on the indie circuit. She has a very en vogue look. Her face that resembles a department store mannequin from the 1980s, yet with full lips and a wide eyed glare still succeeds in presenting a mystifying, even attractive image.

But it's her antics that gets a crowd riling more than anything else. Her free spirited attitude sees her going farther to connect with her fans that virtually any other performer would do. Specifically, she likes crowd surfing: often, and as much as possible. Getting to make physical contact with a figure like Glass is quite a transcendental experience; at any rate, it's the type of thing that entire buildings of people go nuts for.

She crowd surfed about six or seven times during the set, which to the uninitiated may seem overdoing it. But that's not what it's about. Glass aims to give out as many chances as reasonably possible for her fans to connect with her. A girl beside me said she expected to scream like a schoolgirl when Alice came out. And another even lost her top once the melee broke out. Touching Alice's hand, giving her tall platform boot a shove her surfing, getting her microphone cord tangled around you, it's all very real and visceral.

The entire crowd is basically a huge mosh pit for the whole show, expect obviously not quite as rough. You're going to be tightly compacted and jostled around, moving in rhythm to the crowd's dancebeat.

The crowd surfing diva strengthens fan appeal.
The set itself presented a generous cross section of the band's first two albums, but naturally it all kicked off with "Plague" and "Wrath of God," the two singles from their upcoming album, III. It provided a nice, dense atmospheric blast before moving into a pair of staples from their previous album. "Baptism" provides music for your hips -- opening with a hardcore blast of 90s rave -- before moving into a quieter, simpler, melodic lead -- music for your head.

"Suffocation," meanwhile, is more of a sludgy raver, trudging its way forward until it Alice's ethereal vocals come in. Another highlight was their cover of Platinum Blonde's "Not in Love," an 80s new wave tune they spruce up by adding their patented brand of raging electronica. Main composer Ethan Kath stays hunched over the keyboards, cloaked in his dark hoodie. Meanwhile Alice is cutting loose onstage, twirling the mic stand above her head, climbing onto the drum kit, and swigging from a bottle of jack and spitting toward the crowd.

Sadly, the sound was not top notch. The thick, heavy bass synths came through clearly but the lighter electronic lead work over and the vocals were hard to hear. It was tough to make out what songs were what. I didn't recognize "Celestica" until it got to the soft part with Alice singing, and "Intimate" sounded like it was in a different key altogether. I'm pretty sure they did at least one of the noise tracks from II along with "Alice Practice" and "Untrust Us," but it was difficult to tell through the crowd chaos.

Needless to say, the show rocked. A bond could be felt between the band and everyone present that you don't come across everyday. I could have watched them all night, even though it's a very physically exhausting experience.

L.A. noise rock outfit Health played beforehand, showing off a rhythmic and aggressive brand of energetic art rock. They resembled Gang Gang Dance to a degree. Bassist John Famigletti danced around vociferously and pounded on a standalone drum, while Jake Duzsik dropped in otherworldly vocals. One song ended with a sharp buzzing produced by Famigletti strumming all of his bass strings together, like he was in Arab on Radar.

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