Review and photos—Y△CHT at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, May 13 2011
Light Asylum brought a sound highly suitable for Friday the 13th to the Biltmore Cabaret this past weekend. Black-light neon and strobing metronome lights enhanced this aesthetic, with the Brooklyn-based duo’s goth-tinged, dark-wave electronica taking center stage.
Lead singer/percussionist Shannon Funchess dared the crowd not to dance, her aggressive laser-beam stare penetrating the darkness and making full eye contact with the pogo-ing fans in the front row. Punctuating her manic dance moves and furious beating on an electronic percussion pad was her art-house-punk style vocal delivery, sliding from guttural growls to high-octane raps to bittersweet soulful runs. Taking care of synth lines and backing drum loops was partner Bruno Coviello, a self-proclaimed NYC club kid raised on a diet of underground electronica and art rock.
Funchess, who is often described as the Seattle-born lovechild of Ian Curtis and Grace Jones, considers the duo part performance art, part musical powerhouse. And while Light Asylum did deliver a set that was theatrical at times, it was also extremely rich in texture, harmonically complex and highly focused in its precise rhythmic timing.
No wonder their music has caught the attention of producer James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, who is rumored to be producing Light Asylum’s next album. (Last month Light Asylum, who self-released their EP In Tension in 2010, signed to Brooklyn label Mexican Summer, which also boasts Best Coast, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Black Moth Super Rainbow on its roster). Definitely keep this group on your radar in the upcoming months.
Next up was headliner Y△CHT, a Portland-based duo who made good use of visual aides to both educate and titillate audience members (see Western American Utopian Triangle). Their name, which stems from a Portland Oregon alternative school called “Young Americans Challenging High Technology”, is a moniker highly suitable for a band that utilizes laser pointers, PowerPoint presentations and vintage synthesizers to support their highly theatrical brand of post-disco electropop. The official Y△CHT website describes the project as a “cross-disciplinary experiment… using technology to extend physical boundaries of communication, performance, and music.”
But don’t hasten to label them geek chic, as their sound Friday night broached as many genres imaginable in an hour-long set and featured more humor than pretentious posturing. Frontman Jona Bechtolt supplies the electronic production and shares lead vocals with fellow Portland, OR performance artist/vocalist Claire L. Evans, who was stunning in a platinum pixie cut and white Grecian-inspired dress.
Touring members Rob “Bobby Birdman” Kieswetter and Jeffrey Brodsky provided support on bass, drums, and backup vocals respectively. Y△CHT’s live show, which is impressive enough to be featured in performance projects for NYC’s Museum of Modern Art and the Rhizome forum, as well as the Media Archeology Festival in Houston, ranges from down-and-dirty disco to blazing funk to weirdo art-rock.
One unifying theme throughout the show was the band’s motivation to make as many people dance as wildly and unrestrainedly as possible, which I would say, without a doubt, they succeeded in doing. Light Asylum’s Shannon Funchess’ earlier warning to “get ready to sweat” did not fall on deaf ears, as the entire Biltmore erupted into a mad frenzy for the manic disco-punk electro of Y△CHT.
Especially notable was their disco-fied version of Judas Priest’s “Breakin’ the Law” and new tracks from their upcoming release. Those lucky enough to have been at this show will no doubt be talking about it for years.
More Y△CHT at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver photos: