Levitation Reviews: Boy Harsher @ Empire (10/28)

I like guitars.

Because of the introduction of technology, synthesizers, and electronic music, the 80s became the decade of exploration in music less organic. A paradigm shift happened on a grand scale in the art of music sometimes for the better, and at times for the worst. The better of that shift has quietly existed, bubbling beneath the surface while electronic music has permeated the industry on a global scale, diehard fans of the true pioneers, at the time considered underground, find themselves embedded in a resurgence of sorts. Whether intentional or not, the three artists on the bill for the first full night of Levitation Fest 21 at Empire Control Room, embody the essence and pay homage to some of the key players in that pivotal movement of music that ushered in a global shift from our analog lives into the digital world. Hit the jump for more and fancy photos.

The new kid on the block and lesser-known (just for the time being) Nation of Language drew a larger crowd than expected, due in part to their ability to churn out single after single on what seems to be a weekly basis. Each track showcases the bands ability to craft feel-good indie-dance music that stands in line with the bands sound and vision while establishing their own identity. While they may have grabbed our attention with a cover of the Pixies “Gouge Away”, it’s evident that the band draws more inspiration from slightly more obscure electronic music pioneers from the 80s. An admitted nod to Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark seems too obvious while the bands music is scattered with hints of Gary Numan, early New Order, and the hugely influential works of Kraftwerk. The band worked its way through a set of material equally balanced with some of their previously released material from its 2020 pandemic debut Introduction, Presence as well as newer material which will see release next week on Nov 5th titled A Way Forward. A seamless meld of tracks showcasing the bands ability to craft catchy, electronic music that inspires an urge to dance and celebrate life. Keep an eye on this one kid.

Filling the middle slot between the more established veterans and the freshmen, was the L.A.-based project of musician Deb Demure (Andrew Clinco). Now a duo, completed with Mona D (Alex Nicolaou), the androgynous outfit draws from a slightly different sector of 80s influence exploring more ambient textures while scratching the surface of electronic indie-pop. More of an introspective listen, Drab Majesty played out their set to a crowd mixed with die-hard fans and those anticipating what everyone anticipated to be the performance of the night to everyones satisfaction.

Being just a little bit familiar with headliners Boy Harsher, and typically finding myself drawn to live acts that still rely on traditional setups and instrumentation, my interest and expectations going into the evening were slightly minimal. I grew up with many of the pioneers of the electronic music movement that took place in the 80s while chasing the darkness amidst the stench of clove cigarettes, cocaine-fueled sweat, and in a constant haze of artificial smoke and chemical enhancements. The electronic bands live shows in those days paled in comparison to their more-traditional counterparts. Decades of technology have served both us and those bands well. The duo wasted little time punching into the night their brand of dark-wave inspired, dance tracks that sees vocalist Jae Matthews slithering around the stage, a dark seductress capable of moments revealing vulnerability while not allowing us to forget that she is capable of dragging us into lesser-explored dark desires in our minds. Producer Augustus Muller stoically provides the soundtrack to the bands exploration of humanity’s Yin. Towards the end of what seemed to be a mutually rewarding experience, complete with an unexpected smattering of crowd surfing, Matthews joyously stated that Austin remains top of their favorite receptions, before launching into their underground hit “Pain” much to the crowds pleasure.

While it all felt incredibly inspiring, and a full-circle return to a younger self, a few minutes of the Canadien band No Joy holding court on the smaller inside stage thrust me back to my guitar-loving self. Plenty of joy to be had on so many levels this night.

Photos coming your way from our boy @BGray.

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