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Friday night brought The Art of Rhythm showcase with Phutureprimitive, Emancipator, and Beats Antique. It was one of the few 16+ show in the festival. The event was at Motor, a club that from the exterior looked like a sleazy biker bar with country influences. Long lines in a sketchy part of industrial Seattle didn’t add to the appeal. Most of the crowd wasn’t allowed inside until around 10:30 p.m. even though the event was billed to start at 9 p.m. Lowering expectations even more was the abundance of minors in imitation belly dancing costumes filling the air with overzealous high-pitched chatter. Upon entering, it was a totally different story. Outlying the dance floor was an incense corner where people were sitting on the floor drinking tea. There was a live painter. Paper lanterns and umbrellas punctuated a warmly lit, smokey room. The new age vibe was perpetuated with a dance floor full of young and middle-aged people moving fluidly on the floor. It was time to dance.

The first act up, Phutureprimitive, perfectly fit the hippie, anything goes, downtempo feel. His music was hypnotic, rich and airy–all with a distinct groove fit for closing your eyes and getting lost. A lot of his tracks featured samples of breathy female vocals and African-influenced percussion samples resulting in a futuristic jazz trance sound. Unfortunately, his set was missed by many due to Motor’s poor execution of getting ticket holders into the club in a timely manner.

Emancipator picked up where Phutureprimitive left off, introducing folk instrument samples, a live electronic violin, and a saxophone into an incredibly intricate, lush, dreamy, jazzy wonderland. Often in electronica I find myself trying to figure out what’s going on in the minds of the artists. Every glance at their computer screen begs the question; I want to know what samples are linked with what buttons–how they’re creating something so exquisite. But with Emancipator, I felt like the audience was let into their world. It was probably a result of the live instruments, but you could follow the eye contact of the three members back and forth. They were all focused and waiting on each other as they finished phrases and introduced new sounds; they had flawless timing.

The build up of this event was amazing. Each performance had just enough in common with the last to completely surpass the previous act, while at the same time taking nothing away from the last act. They were all equally grand because they all featured something totally unique: belly dancing, an electric violin, a viola, a saxophone, world music influence; each group felt like so much more than electronic music. Beats Antique was the reason most of the crowd was there. Their headlining shows are said to be amazing, filled with pyrotechnics, belly dancing and burlesque. Tonight’s performance lacked the pyrotechnics and burlesque but Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique was featured belly dancing. A few younger girls also danced on the speakers in front of the stage doing belly dancing and interpretive dance.

Beats Antique gave the crowd everything they could want. They played longer than their allotted time, they talked to the audience, Zoe belly danced, and they made the crowd groove harder than any I’ve seen at Decibel Fest. I loved that the horns were so much more distinct live compared to their albums. They played almost all of the songs from their 2009 album Contraption and a number of songs from their older and newer discography. You could tell the crowd felt sexy and was completely immersed in every glitch, bass drop, and Middle Eastern jangle. By the end of the show, everyone in the crowd was a hot sweaty mess. The Art of Rhythm showcase was undoubtedly my favorite show of the festival.

For the encore, Beats Antique, Emanicipator, Phutureprimitive, and some of the Motor/Decibel Fest staff came out on stage to dance in animal masks. Need I say more?

Photos courtesy of Adam Mario.

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