To say that electronic music is on the rise right now is an understatement. There are crotchety old men claiming that “rock is dead” and they might not be completely wrong. A study done in 2012 comparing the listening habits of Australia’s popular Triple J radio station showed that electronic music made up 40% of the music that listeners consumed.
For Seattle’s Decibel Festival this is a great thing. As one of the premier electronic music festivals in the world for the past decade, the number of attendees has grown tenfold, boasting 25,000 attendees this year. This year the 5-day festival is hosting almost 150 artists in 12 different venues around Seattle. Unfortunately it’s literally impossible to see them all which means making some difficult decisions. For this Music Existence reporter, work and lack of money were also a factor so the festival pass was not an option. I was going to have to choose. Luckily, the shows are put together in a way that caters to almost any electronic lover’s particular taste, be it big room house, experimental drone, ambient chillwave, etc. I fall into the latter camp.
“Haunted Pop.” Conjures up an image doesn’t it? You know just by reading it that it’s going to be full of hazy soundscapes and atmospheric vocals. Or maybe, to you, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” comes to mind. Either/or. The lineup included Son Lux, BRAIDS, Manatee Commune, and Helado Negro.
The show started with three sparkling, tinsel- covered creatures entering the stage to take the place they would inhabit the rest of the set. Roberto Carlos Lange, the man behind Helado Negro, follows them out and immediately transports the audience to a place filled with far more sun than drizzly Seattle is currently having. He sings almost entirely in Spanish, which he reminds the crowd at one point saying, “In case you were worried, you’re not that drunk, I really am singing in another language.” The groovy rhythms and creepy swaying tinsel monsters are an odd combination but definitely make for an interesting and engaging start to the show.
The only local Washingtonian at Haunted Pop was Bellingham’s Grant Eadie of Manatee Commune. He is also the youngest and perhaps the most prolific (although that’s tough to say in the presence of a band like BRAIDS). The number of instruments he plays are innumerable and in this particular set he managed to play the guitar, the drums, and the viola all while mixing. His energy and enthusiasm makes for a dynamic performance (definitely check out his in-studio with KEXP). In a world full of electronic artists pressing buttons, it’s refreshing to see an artist truly perform during a set. Stay tuned for our exclusive interview with Grant!
As a huge fan of BRAIDS since the critically acclaimed Native Speaker, I was extremely pumped to see them for the first time. The thing about seeing a band one loves for the first time is that one typically has a desire and expectation to hear the songs one loves and has been dying to hear their favorite band perform. This did not happen on this particular evening. For some reason BRAIDS decided that Decibel Festival would be a good place to try out all the new songs they’d been working on. Which is disappointing and confounding, especially when a band only has 30 minutes to play and has an amazing catalog of songs to choose from. The high point of the set was their performance of “In Kind” where Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s voice reached notes angels only wish they could reach.
Around 12:15am Son Lux finally took the stage and as a surprisingly fully-formed band. Up until January Ryan Lott had been touring the Son Lux project alone but since then he’s had guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang in tow to fill things out. But to be honest, he doesn’t really need them. The man has so much enthusiasm and passion dripping out of him, there might as well not have been anyone else on that stage. Despite the late weeknight hour, the crowd was fully engrossed. He kicked the set off with the amazing “Lost It To Trying” that flowed into an extended and emotionally drawn out version of “Alternate World.” He eventually landed on his most-famous song, due to Lorde, “Easy” which was very well-received. Every song in the set was elongated and filled with so much emotion it seemed quite possible that Mr. Lott might turn this into an all-night affair. But all good things must come to an end. By witching hour we all left feeling haunted.