Thursday, July 7, 2011

16. The Glitch Mob at Trees, 7/6/11

16. The Glitch Mob, at Trees.

So then we went to Trees, which is known for the metal shows and is Big with the Kids.  We knew we were going to see an electronic act, which was not our usual inclination.  Other that that, we knew nothing about the band.

Packed like sardines and loving it.

When we got to the door, we were informed that they were only letting in people who had tickets already, no buying at the door. "Oh well," we said, and prepared to walk on down the street. "All right, you can come in," the door guys said, clearly terrified at losing the crucial forty-and-over cynical demographic.

The cover was twenty dollars.  There were about 500 people in paid attendance, with more allowed to trickle in as the night wore on and some others left.

There was a strong smell of weed in the air, some young girls wearing very little, some Bros and Guidos dancing spasmodically, and the crowd cheered even between the songs on the loudspeaker, the music that was playing before the show started.  We were easily the oldest people there not making tips.

We caught a few minutes of the tail-end of the previous show, a DJ making blips and bloops with a Macbook, and he was very enthusiastically received as well.

R reported being unimpressed with the "renovation" aesthetically, though the sound system is terrific.  The bar is in a very awkward position at the back, and smoking was allowed only at a small porch on the opposite side of the main entrance (and how come people are smoking weed inside but if someone lights a cigarette they're pounced upon by Staff?).

The young, excited audience was quite avid for the show to start.  R remarked that he had never seen so many people film a closed curtain.

Not pictured: solid wave of noise, weed.

Then it began.  "We are Glitch Mob."  It hit hard immediately, heavy on the bass.  Stage-to-ceiling light tubes like Daft Punk meets Kanye.  Constant undertone of fuzznoise, plus the ubiquitous Byoo! Byoo! pulse that is the trademark of the genre.  Some samples of rapping voices.  But above it all, that bass that hits in the chest and brain, making the whole body vibrate as if standing on an enormous subwoofer.

R, who seemed to get all the best lines this night, said that for the same effect, he could have bought X and listened to a Daft Punk CD while flicking his lights on and off.

He was wrong, of course.  He would have had to turn his air conditioner off and invite a few dozen frat houses to join him to get the full effect.

But anyway.  The Glitch Mob were onstage.  As far as we could tell there were three of them, wearing skinny white ties and black shirts, parked in front of futuristic music-playing consoles and one real drum set.  It harkened back to a time when we were high school age, going to clubs like this one, trying to pretend to "get it" to impress a girl while the bass pounded out a beat in time to the horniness of the young, and the volume drove any other thoughts out of their heads so they didn't have to wonder what they were doing there.

R again: "Turn it up! I can still hear myself think that this is not that good!"

Look, it's clear that we are not the audience for this music.  To us it was like one one of those '70s dystopian future movies come alive, the kids moving in rhythm entranced by nothing, but meaning it, feeling it, soulless and hollow and appreciated all the more so because of it.  Just drink, grind, move, and yell, and it's all okay because look, there's some flickering neon!

Here's what we wondered: does the band actually do anything?  Musically, that is?  Is anything here happening, or is it all meticulously pre-programmed?  In a sense, of course, that matters not a bit.  This is a show, whether in the sense of a spectacle in which performers create art and feed off the reaction of the audience, or in the sense of a television show, art that is fed to you as a set piece.

We could see knobs being tweaked, but too hard to tell if they corresponded to any sounds that we heard.  For that matter, we would be hard pressed to say whether the drummer was actually creating the percussion noises that were being blasted into the audience.  Was it live?  Was it mime?  Did it matter?  It was loud and layered and rhythm peeked out of the chaos every once in a while.  It was highly energetic, but controlled.

They were very good at creating that atmosphere.  But is that a compliment?

In sum:  R, again hitting the nail on the head, compared them to Fox News: highly recommended for those who like that sort of thing.  This band is what you go see if you are fixated on loud bass-rich dance music and don't want to be dissuaded from that.  They will give you a bright shiny loud spectacle and you can go home having not once considered anything but the spectacle.  Music in other genres --- Slobberbone, Peter Bjorn and John, the O's --- will attempt to affect you.  You can be energized by the music, laugh at the funny songs, empathize with the poignant songs of failed romance, and be surprised at a new line or a new interpretation of an old song.  Glitch Mob doesn't want to surprise anyone.  There's a set program and they're giving it to you.



Later we had to relax in the cool, quiet, friendly, wood-paneled, adult Anvil Pub.  Best part of the evening, frankly.


  1. a couple of minor factual quibbles--

    There wasn't a "drum kit" playerm at least not that I could see. At least 2 of the 3 "workstation" locations on stage had 2-3 acoustic drums adjacent, and those drums were both mic'd and being used as triggers for other layers of sounds/samples.

    Also, among the other gear they had on stage were "controllers" very much like the Novation Launchpad (, designed to use for live performances using software like Ableton Live. These devices enable the user to "play" a variety of sounds they've collected and/or crafted as a real-time live performance.

    In fact, the guy standing behind us, whose primary job was controlling the video and tube-lights, also had a similar control surface w/small keyboard he used to generate/control sounds specifically associated with the changes he was making to the video backdrop and the lights he controlled.

    I really think this is for real serious music, with some serious showmanship, all in the name of dancy, trancy fun. That being said, it's not exactly my cup of tea, but I was really impressed.

  2. Thank you. While the authors of this site have strong opinions and are not afraid to sue them, they lack a technical eye. This viewpoint is missed in our assessment, at least in view of How It's Done. You should join us more often.

  3. I only offer the How It's Done insights in response to R's apparent disappointment that the music didn't seem like it was being "played", which seemed to diminish his enjoyment of the music. It really was being played, but there's no reason a person like R without much technical knowledge of their relatively new and obscure techniques would know that.

  4. ...and yeah, text me when you know what shows you're going to. If I can catch up to you I will, and maybe I'll take some pix for guys need a little help there... :-)

  5. ...You are not the first person to say that.


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