At this point, my friends and I have noticed a certain phenomenon as a result of Decibel Fest. We find ourselves dancing regardless of what we’re doing. Walking to a bus stop? You got it. Cooking? Sitting? You name it. As awesome as this development is, add five days of selfishly dancing until two in the morning, and it has to end sometime. The finale of Decibel Fest was met with thinning crowds, most of which cleared out after the headliner. Dub My Soul, the Decibel Fest finale at Neumo’s featured two returning festival favorites: The headliner, Germany’s Monolake, and Mexico’s Fax. Detroit’s Luke Hess and Parisian house artist Pepe Bradock, aka Julien Auger, also performed. German electronic artist Cassy was originally scheduled to close the night but she failed to obtain her Visa on time, so Pepe Bradock was asked to fill the gap.
I walked into Neumo’s hearing pulsating techno near the end of Luke Hess’ set. His music had the same precision as the art behind him except with less monotony (see above). I’m sure some people stand there not giving a thought to the visuals, or the fact that these are A/V performances not just musical journeys, and that a lot of electronic artists tour and consistently work with one VJ like Monolake does with Tarik Barri. But as abstract as the visuals can be, they exist to deepen your experience, play off the drugs you may or may not be on (because face it, you never know what mental state the person flailing around next to you is in)–that’s why anyone can come to these events and dance as eccentric as they wish because everyone is too lost in their own world to judge you. That’s what’s great about Decibel. You’re in an environment where everyone is excited about electronic music and is somewhat informed about it. At the end of the five days, regardless of what venue you’re in, you recognize half the crowd. There’s mutual respect. There’s no one laughing at the spectacle because they don’t understand it.
A treat especially to recording engineers and musicians, the co-creator of music sequencer and digital audio workstation, Ableton Live, Monolake, headlined the finale. To put this in perspective, this is the program a majority of the musicians at Decibel probably learned their trade and are performing on at Decibel. Naturally, seeing the master behind the program who likely knows it better than anyone was surreal. At times I was wishing that the screen was connected to his laptop so we could see what he was doing on Ableton instead of the VJ performance. Landing somewhere between techno and dubstep, Monolake bears a strong industrial element. Listening to him is like you’re treading through a building made of nothing but metals and alloys of different densities. It’s as if you’re climbing up on the squeaky, unstable stairs that you find hiding above the lights in a theater house, and surrounding you are the sounds of things shattering and rolling around. It’s like a game of dominoes collapsing inside a pinball machine. It was the first show at Decibel where I could tell certain sounds were only coming from one or two speakers; the experience was inching toward surround sound.
I didn’t know this at the time, but Decibel enlightened me that not only was Robert Henke performing Monolake material (it is usually a duo), but he was also showcasing his commissioned multichannel drone/soundscape work that originated from field recordings from Hanoi, Vietnam that were recorded Spring 2010. Never would have known!
Ableton felt the love from the crowd, offering a big smile every couple of minutes, bobbing his head constantly, and even going out of his way to touch the hand of a girl in the audience during a song. I wouldn’t be surprised if he returned to Decibel again. Seattle definitely has a friend in him.
For those still in high-spirits, Pepe Bradock led the way for the remainder. Less than 200 people were scattered in the venue. Had it been more crowded, I imagine the scene would have resembled a rave with his jazz and hip-hop influenced house music. But while I was still in attendance, Neumo’s served as just another place to dance, drink, and hang, with few recognizing that this guys was pretty cool. Plus, smoke machine going off every two minutes? Bonus points!
And there ends Decibel Festival 2010. I wish I could have shared triple the events with you. There were so many artists worth seeing. Another great aspect of Decibel: You’re bound to discover a bunch of mind-blowing artists due to how the showcases are grouped. I hope I have spurred an interest in electronic music in some of you and that someone out there will attend Decibel Festival 2011! It will be so much better than you could imagine, I promise. Thanks to my photographer, Adam Mario, for fighting away the sober and the not, battling his way to the front of the crowd, climbing around to get shots, and for protecting me in general Wednesday through Saturday (not to imply you need protection if you’re a solitary female attending dB Fest; you totally don’t–security is fantastic!!). ‘Til next time, explore some electronic music and start checking for next years dB line-up next Spring!