Borns vibes with fans at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia.
How does consumerism affect society? Is consumption consuming ourselves? Why is it so important to be recognized, popular and prosperous nowadays? Has earth become a kind of wasteland? These are some interrogations that came to my mind after I attended Santigold’s concert last week at the Tabernacle. It was a pure consideration on how we (human beings) have become so materialistic and have forgotten about the essence of life.
Santi White a.k.a. Santigold enchanted Atlanta with hits from past albums Santogold (2008) and Master of my Make-Believe (2012). Also, she presented hits from her new album, 99¢. "Chasing Shadows," "Disparate Youth," "Unstoppable," "Who Be Loving Me," "Can’t Get Enough of Myself," "Big Mouth," were performed and chanted by hundreds of fans.
With a blend of pop, hip-hop, 80’s punk, dance hall and, a hint of different sounds from cultures around the world, Santigold had spectators dancing for almost two hours straight. The concert hit it's climax when Santi White called more than 50 people up to the stage to sing and dance with her. It was a selfless moment where all eyes were focused on the public instead of the star of the night. It was dance party time! I have to say that I truly enjoyed this show regardless of my unfamiliarity with her music.
Besides the outstanding performance by White, the night was accompanied by startling choreography. Two synchronized dancers were constantly criticizing and questioning the narcissist society, its consumerism, and today's social media addiction.
I want to mention the dynamic, interactive and colorful graphics and illustrations presented on the back screen. All of them reminding us how our relentless culture is fascinated with consumption and how people have turned into some kind of advertising “slaves."
Now the reflection is laid on the table. It is our decision to start acting different and escape the consumption stream, or just keep being dominated by multiple market trends and oppressed by social media. Do we really want to keep buying gold? How long are we going to be told how to think? It's up to me and you...
By Sam Lawrence
Photos by Ryan Purcell
Holy hell, this one was lit. All the way turnt up. Three fire emojis.
This past Friday, a sold-out crowd gathered to see Excision take over The Tabernacle, with support from Bear Grillz and Figure. Excision has risen to the throne over the dubstep scene in North America. Bear Grillz is a DJ who performs in a mask, but in his case it's a full plush teddy bear head and a bearskin onesie. He was entertaining, but nothing exceptional. Figure also started out a little weak, but picked things up by the second half of his set. In truth, it's hard to judge these artists fairly as the volume was turned way down for their sets, and they had no visual accompaniment except for a few spotlights. All the fun stuff was saved for the main event.
Excision has never held back on his visuals and now that he's the reigning king of American dubstep, it only made sense that he would invest in the most insane stage setup he could afford. That said, I don't think any of us expected The Paradox. Imagine a wall-to-wall HD video screen that completely covers the back wall of the Tabernacle. 3-D animations of dinosaurs, robots, and fire in a non-stop spiral of chaos and fury. Directly behind the DJ is a halo of pulsing light that pumps in perfect time with the beat and issues out new evil-looking components to the insane scenes that cover this screen. Now imagine that around the entire frame of this stage, a border of spotlights, strobes, and lasers is constantly firing and creating geometric shapes that extend from the stage deep into the z-axis, over the heads of the crowd.
As if this wasn't enough, the DJ booth itself was covered in LED display on three sides and rose up in the air at a few points during the show to reveal more lasers and nitrogen cannons underneath, then blasting out fog that enveloped the first 50 feet of the crowd. The stage was utter insanity with the cherry on top being someone in a fully animatronic T-Rex suit who came out and leered at the crowd. Not one of those inflatable jobs you've seen on YouTube, this rig had metal braces on the legs and a long latex tail that whipped back and forth as the mouth snarled at the front row.
The most astonishing thing about the video wall wasn't just the sharpness of the images and brightness, but the frame rate and responsiveness of the display. Apparently the whole thing is made from LEDs, which explains how it was technically possible, but technology is meaningless unless wedded to art. Whoever created Excision’s animations clearly made it a labor of love. Not only did each song he played have a unique video track, these clips were more like scenes with progressive animations that unfolded over time. It was absolutely breathtaking and most likely represented close to half a million dollars in technology investment and art assets.
Dubstep shows aren't always known for having the friendliest crowds, but the young, sweaty bodies gathered at The Tabernacle belonged to some of the nicest people I've seen out at a show of that size. Everyone was head banging and pumping their fists, but no shoving or rudeness happened that I could tell. Mosh pits kept to themselves and did a good job of making sure no shorter or weaker people were injured. It was possible, dare I say even easy, for me to walk right up to the front rail through the middle of the crowd, then return to my friends once I'd gotten a good look at the stage setup. I think part of the communal feeling in the audience may simply have been due to everyone’s state of shock at the immense show they were witnessing. Talking to a few people in the crowd, the astonishment really never had time to wear off as Excision dropped barrage after barrage of bass and psychedelic visual violence on us.
This show was dubstep in its purest form. Angry, loud, and unrelenting; the show only took a brief break when Excision played an uplifting melodic track and the video wall displayed an enormous golden angel made of fire. This was a welcome respite, but short lived, as Excision took us right back into hard-hitting drums within thirty seconds.
Excision is king in the dubstep world and he deserves every bit of the title. I've never seen a show with so much attention to detail and overblown energy. I've never enjoyed four hours of solid dubstep as much as that night. If he can ever top this tour, then he will emerge as not just the greatest dubstep artist, but as one of the premiere audio-visual artists around. No photos or video can do justice to the impressiveness of The Paradox, and it provides the perfect accompaniment to his raw mixes. Metal may be dead, but its spirit lives on in the headbanging frenzy of an Excision show. Long live the metal.
By Liz Turcotte
Vinnie Amico, the drummer of moe., chatted with us recently about his daughters, Jerry Garcia and how much he loves The Tabernacle. moe. begins their three-night run in Atlanta on Thursday at Terminal West, followed by two nights at the Tabernacle with opening sets from Earphunk and Dumpstaphunk.
What type of music did your parents listen to growing up?
My father, Sal Amico, was a Jazz musician who played the trumpet and well-known in the Syracuse area so when I was real small there was a lot of Jazz around. My parents divorced and my mom remarried and she used to listen to the worst music. Gordon Lightfoot isn’t that bad now that I look back at it, but Neil diamond, Roger Whittaker, ABBA. It’s all stuff that is stuck in my brain because now when an ABBA tune comes on the radio I can sing every single word.
You have two daughters, are they both pretty big into music as well?
My oldest daughter goes to Drew University. She doesn’t study music but takes vocal classes and is in the choral union. She plays saxophone, she’s actually played with moe. a couple of times. Both of our kids are in musical theater. My youngest daughter is very musical, although she quit playing violin a couple of years ago. She sings all of the time and just loves music.
Is it true you have never taken drum lessons?
That is correct. When I was really young, when I was first introduced to instruments in school, I played drums but it didn’t last very long. I wasn’t in the school band or anything.
How did you learn to play without YouTube?
My parents bought me a drum set my first six months of classes at school. I went home from school every day and put on whatever music I was listening to and memorized all of the songs. I played drums all day every day for about five or six years before I started hanging out with my friends who were playing instruments, and we all started putting music together.
Would you be able to teach someone how to play the drums?
Oh yeah, I had two lessons today actually. I have a guy that I teach FaceTime lessons to down in Florida and I had a guy show up at the house today who I gave a lesson to. I’m trying to do a couple of clinics because I have a whole thing that I teach, it’s very simple but I think it’s very helpful for any drummer. I figured I had to teach myself so I should be able to teach others, right?
You perform in a variety of one off Grateful Dead sets, what makes those performances so special?
The music itself because I used to be a big Dead fan and the songs are just great songs. I played in that kind of style of band in college so I got really good at playing that particular style of music. You could say I studied that style. Also, there’s a couple of really good players. Jerry Garcia was such a great guitar player and there’s some guys who emulate him very well. When I get to play with them it’s like I’m playing with Jerry. Those kind of things really make it fun. When you get close to what the Dead was playing when you’re doing it, it’s just awesome.
What guitar player do you feel like emulates Jerry the most?
There’s a friend of mine who used to play in a band around Albany called Slipknot, and then he was in Buffalo and played in a band with me his name is Adam Czolowski. He’s just about as close to Jerry as I’ve ever heard anybody play. His sound isn’t 100% but its pretty close. It’s his playing, he’s just such a great guitar player. I play with another guy named Zach Nugent who is also really good, a real good Jerry guy. The ones that really studied the music and know the songs the way the way the Dead played them, the different styles and stuff it’s just a blast. If you’re all in tune with the style, the year or whatever kind of jam you’re doing it can be a lot of fun. And the songs, it’s all about the songs.
Do you have a favorite venue or city that you like to play in?
Actually the Tabernacle is definitely one of my favorites. It’s just an amazing, amazing venue. I mean we’ve played all over. We’ve played Red Rocks, Radio City., too many to say but I definitely love the Tab. As far as the energy goes for our performances, it’s one of the best venues we play.
The band is playing a three-night run in Atlanta but with one night at Terminal West and two nights at the Tabernacle, how did that happen?
We’ve been touring in that model for the last year where we’ll play one smaller venue to give people a more intimate setting and then we’ll play two nights at the bigger place in town. It’s kind of cool because it gives the fans a destination to go to where they’re not traveling all over the place. They can just travel to one place, get hotels, roll up and party to have a great time and don’t have to do a whole lot of moving around and what not. It definitely seems to work. I think the fans like it, we definitely like it a lot. I think we’re going to continue doing it for a while into this year. We’ve never played Terminal West so we’re looking forward to that.
When you’re playing and make a mistake how do you handle it?
It happens all of the time. Sometimes I make a face, sometimes I yell. Pretty much when I screw up the whole bands turns around, because it’s very apparent when it happens and I don’t do it that often. So when it happens it’s a big freaking to-do and everyone looks at me. I’m thinking guys, you could cover it up by not turning around and making me look like an idiot, but it’s not the way we roll. We did at one point have a jar and anytime anybody made mistakes they had to pay-in. Whoever made the least would win the jar but it got to be pretty expensive. Some people made lots of mistakes so they were always having to put money in the jar.
Last year was the 25th anniversary for the band, what were some highlights from the year?
Summer Camp was a highlight, I mean it always is it’s such a great festival. We got to do a set with Bruce Hornsby which was a lot of fun. Playing in Chicago when the Dead was there was a lot of fun. They played and then we did some after-show sets there. That was great because we got to see the Fare Thee Well shows and then perform afterwards. At a show like that the energy level is pretty high so you go into it really ready to rock.
Our first Jamaica trip was last winter and have since been back, we just got back a couple of days ago. Hopefully we started a yearly excursion. It’s like we were vacationing with our fans because for the most part people who come to those things are our friends. We have a community of people who are on vacation together and all a bunch of like-minded people. It’s a cool place to be on a beach hanging out with good entertainment.
We did a lot of cool stuff last year and the fact that we were able to celebrate 25 years being a band, most people don’t get to do that. So the fact that we’ve been able to make a career of playing music is awesome.
Random question, what do you think about when you’re alone in the car?
Getting to the next place, listening to Howard Stern on the radio and usually I’m late. Picking up my daughter at school and thinking, “Crap, get out of my way.” It’s not very deep at all.
How long have you been listening to Howard Stern?
I started listening to him in ’92 so I’ve been listening to him a long time. I lived in DC, I guess about 23 years now. Long-time listener.
You’ve probably done a million interviews and have been asked a million questions. What’s something you always hope someone will ask you?
That’s a great question, too bad I can’t remember. I think that might be the question. You know what I don’t have an answer, what a great question that I can’t answer. Maybe if you come backstage at the show next week I’ll have one for you.
Upcoming projects? Plans for 2016?
We’re doing the west coast tour that was just announced. Doing a bunch of shows out west where we haven’t been in a while which will be awesome. My side band Floodwood is doing a bunch of shows coming up in February.
Grab your tickets for the upcoming shows in Atlanta here.