My concert review of Beats Antique for The Vinyl District
On Wednesday, the 9:30 Club opened its doors to the dubby, world-music-fusion sounds of Beats Antique.
David Satori and Tommy Cappel (who grew up in Springfield and gave a shoutout to his Mom, who was in attendance) provided a seamless sonic tapestry that was refreshingly organic despite the band’s seemingly electronic roots. With surprisingly minimal knob-twiddling and laptop-fidgeting, both spent a lot of time percussively propelling the show forward, with the flourishes of David’s banjo and violin-playing and a French saxophonist blending into the mix.
DJ Laura Low opened for the band, with a lackluster poppy-dubstep-by-the-numbers set that showcased why Skrillex has a lot to answer for and was especially bad following the brilliant Forward Festival this past weekend. Her dubstep remixes of M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” and even the Cranberries’ “Zombie” were downright cringe-inducing and her own amped-up demeanor was hardly contagious.
And speaking of the audience, there was a heavy belly [dancing-clad] contingent, along with the well-dreaded Burning Man cohort. In other words, there was plenty of hair-tossing about [“I whip my hair back and forth, real or not”], but more on that later.
The show opened with “The Porch” from the band’s 2011 album Elektrafone, and to their credit, Beats Antique’s musicianship is nigh perfect—the songs unfurled in a languid yet sonically-sound fashion and none of the usual concert-muddiness problem was present. They also played “Alto” and “Siren Song” from Elektrafone, as well as debuting a new more dubstep-leaning song, which was very well-received by the crowd.
The band clearly has a keen sense of showmanship; their roots in San Francisco’s performance art scene and their work on the music for the Bellydance Superstars (with whom Zoe Jakes dances) have influenced the stage show, which is very much carnival/sideshow-esque in its aesthetic.
Oddly enough, however, raucous and boisterous are not exactly words I would use to describe the show last night—despite the consummate musicianship and the fact that it very quickly started to sound like one long jam session as the songs started to meld into each other, it lacked a certain kind of playfulness and just general elan. In other words, this wasn’t a Balkan Beat Box show and definitely not an Eastern-European wedding (despite the band’s dabbling in the Roma/Bulgarian brass elements). In other words, it was oddly sedate. Yes, there was some dancing in the crowd, but I saw more at the Little Dragon show.
And speaking of dancing, Zoe Jakes, a renowned tribal belly dancer who is considered part of the band, performed almost throughout the entire show. Some of Jakes’ routines were truly beautiful, such as in the burlesque-influenced jazz dance she performed with giant feather fans, or the skeleton-Mexican-Day-of-the-Dead-like routine during “Beauty Beats.”
At other times, her style, which is essentially a mix of popping-and-locking (think breakdance) and some of the shimmies and hip and shoulder isolations from belly dance, is downright snooze-inducing when viewed for an hour and a half. Jakes’ dancing relies far too much on her wildly tossing her hair about, and the routines where she performed with another belly dancer were out-of-sync enough to make a pre-teen dance teacher cry. No doubt Jakes is a hard-working, seasoned performer… As to whether it is the kind of performance one could watch for extended periods of time is a matter of viewer preference.
Beats Antique’s stage presentation is definitely visually unique and showcases their knack for showmanship. Musically, the band’s palette of glitch, dub, and Middle Eastern and brass motifs is masterfully presented in their live show.