(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Concert review - Govinda with David Starfire, Cualli, and Goldilocks

Wednesday, 2 October 2013 (Aggie Theatre, Ft. Collins CO)

More than just a mid-week rave, Govinda and his tour arranged for a happening that encompassed art and dance in addition to the music. Painters generated psychedelic primitive imagery at the back of the venue during the show and dancers took the stage at will to channel and interpret the music in physical form.

018 Artists
This extra bit of theater was a good strategy to address the fundamental problem of turning laptop-oriented music production into a performance. Each of the players had their own angle for confronting this conundrum.

008 Goldilocks
Goldilocks took the tweaker DJ approach. Intently focused on his wide array of equipment, he stayed in constant motion. Adjusting a slider here, adding a light keyboard riff there, he made mixing a track look like a juggling act. Despite the furious action, my sense is that most of the effort took place earlier in the studio and his hive of activity was an equal balance of simple mixing and adding accents. That said, I appreciated that his pieces evoked a lot of different moods, from trippy dance beats to dark voyages filled with throbbing bass and bubbling tension. It was a decent warm-up set, but it offered little of his personality.

032 Cualli
Cualli had a completely different style. The bulk of his set was based on tracks he created in advance. The pieces favored a lot of international influences, especially Asian tonalities. Despite the cool, hypnotic sound, he had almost no stage presence as he dreamily danced along to his shrink-wrapped tunes. A couple of songs into the set, I was about to write him off when he transformed his performance. He pulled out his guitar and played over the pre-fab tracks. In contrast to his spacey dancing, his fretwork was remarkably focused. Chord stabs added depth to the synth washes and trance grooves and his lead work ranged from singing melodies to spacious post rock jams and energetic shredding.

It was a startling contrast. Without the guitar, he faded into the background, which didn't do justice to the music he had built up. But adding in the live production element electrified his set.

David Starfire
046 David Starfire
David Starfire, on the other hand, was all about performance. His technique split the difference between the opening acts, actively mixing his well-designed tracks and adding live percussion work. But, more importantly, he engaged the crowd like a master club DJ.

038 David Starfire
Dancing and gyrating, his high energy spurred the audience on. Changing up the mix with a small handheld controller, his gestures were large and exciting. His electronic percussion playing was solid, but he made his mark with vibrant physicality as he pounded on the acoustic toms to the side of his deck. He didn't just strike the drum heads, he launched his whole body into the beat. Grinding bass and sharp-edged tones set a rave vibe for a solid start to the set, but then Starfire pulled out a hidden ace. He kicked off the beat and when the opening vocals of "A Day in the Life" came in, the audience rolled back in momentary surprise before enthusiastically responding. This heavily mutated version of The Beatles' tune juxtaposed chopped and scratched samples of the original vocal against a heavy drumstep beat. He followed up with a similar treatment of The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage".

033 David Starfire
These tracks and others demonstrated Starfire's up front production work. Whether reworking classics or crafting compelling jams out of world-beat samples, he drew on a number of electronic genres and interesting sounds. Paired with his presence and instinctive connection to the audience, it made for a strong show.

051 Govinda
Govinda followed a similar path, with active track mixing, live overdubs, and strong energy. Where Starfire traded on a manic fervor as he worked the audience, Govinda radiated musical joy, occasionally leavened by intense concentration as he locked into his mixing or his violin riffs. It was a mellower mood than the previous set, but never dragged because his amicable personality buoyed the crowd.

064 Govinda
I've loved Govinda's recorded work (Universal On Switch and Resonance), pulled in by his swirling mix of throbbing electronic jams, gypsy-style violin, and exotic inspirations. His set delivered on all of these elements. Indian percussion counts pressed against swooping synthesizers and intergalactic zipper basslines. He'd set up the song components, build a glitchy rhythm, then theatrically thread his echoed and compressed violin through the evocative soundscape. The beats and grinds were visceral enough to maintain a healthy dance spirit but the hypnotic ecstasy of the trance was a strong second locus for his work.

062 Govinda
One of my favorite songs in the set was "Plant The Seed", from last year's Resonance. Rosey's lush vocal from the recording cut in and out and Govinda seemed to fall under its spell as he delicately played the melodic theme and rocked to the twisting rhythm and pulsating bottom end. Of course, as the tune wound down, his infectious grin returned and he leaned forward to kick off the next track, sending the audience spiraling into a new direction as he bobbed along with us.

067 Govinda
Bright wandering lights, lithe dancers trailing beribboned fans, paintings filled with symbolism, and a long night of evolving musical visions. Bodies and minds were permeated with vibration and euphoria as analog and digital fused.

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