Assemblage 23 – Small’s 10/6/16
Electronic acts are cool because dancing is encouraged, so even the biggest dipshit on the planet will start shaking their ass. Throughout this show, I was amazed at the variety of styles: the couple near the stage dry humped all night, the bald guys with VNV Nation shirts threw their limbs around wildly, and the woman in front of me danced like a soccer mom. In the closing minutes of the show, one woman came up wagging her hips and wiggling her right hand like some sort of wild hundred-years-too-late flapper chick.
The actual acts weren’t always as entertaining, specifically the opener Ghost Synthesis. A DJ who’s beyond all over the place, it’s a grotesque amalgamation of EBM, dubstep, and pop music that made me want to hurl. There’d be a cool gothic/industrial section for a couple minutes, but it would almost always be followed by synth pop with pre-recorded vocals playing. I don’t think anyone danced at all except for this side-shaved chick up front. He tried to actually play synths at different points, but in true DJ style, most of his time was spent checking his Twitter feed on the laptop.
Voicecoil was infinitely better. The front man donned sunglasses and a suit, looking like some sort of synth-pop superstar. This is the only band that actually had a guitarist, but the girl at the laptop was much louder. Still, the music was perfect for the crowd: a sugary take on the futurepop mold, with all the block-rocking aspects of synthpop in the red throughout. Somehow, the band and audience both lost a lot of energy in the last couple of songs, but I was still impressed.
After a short reprieve, Assemblage 23 took the stage. Aside from sole member Tom Shear, the touring act included a middle aged guy at a laptop/synth setup and a younger drummer who smiled the entire show. These two stepped out first, playing an instrumental track to warm up the crowd. Shear took the stage like a bat out of hell, grabbing the microphone and kicking into the second track, “After”. After this, the band played some old favorites, with everyone dancing or Snapchatting their heads off.
From the concert alone, one can view Assemblage 23 as sort of an EBM version of Depeche Mode: like Depeche Mode, the melodies and atmosphere take precedence over all else, and they do a great job balancing slower tracks and faster uptempo boombox breakers. Just when the crowd would get tired from pounding their heads or shaking their butts, the band put on a slower sway type song, giving everyone a minute to take a breath.
This was pretty important considering that the band went on for almost TWO HOURS! They literally played twenty songs, the majority of them being upbeat rockers. Two encores were played, although Shear blurted that he didn’t feel like getting off stage so everyone should just yell really loud so they can just play some more. The first encore got everyone’s blood pumping, but the second was literally putting me to sleep. I swayed and closed my eyes and thought I was going to pass out. A lot of people left at this point.
After all the smoke cleared, I was pretty happy with my experience. I hope when I’m 44 that I can rock out for two hours straight.
Ghost Synthesis: F
Assemblage 23: B+