The end of last week on the North Coast proved to be disappointing, to those who slept on how hungry people were for pre-sale tickets to the much anticipated performance by the electro-acoustic tri-fekta known as Beats Antique. Tickets were sold out at Humboldt’s largest venue by Tuesday, and offers were going on Craigslist to the tune of 45 bucks above the 15 dollar cover price- an extreme example of how much the people of this County wanted to end their week in a whirlpool of worldly beats and shaking hips. For some of us, the night began in the form of the Doctor of Rage himself spinning some old school hip hop vinyl from the crates of yesteryear, while we shook off the school week and loosened up for the ensuing experience.
As I approached the venue, my heart beats rallied in tempo as the line appeared wrapped around the old Arcata Theatre Lounge. The ATL still serves as a movie theater playing contemporary classics and cult films, but doubles as quite the womp worthy venue, recently catering to such names as Ana Sia, Heyoka, The Flying Skulls and Bassnectar, to name just a few. Spirits were high and the marquee was lit proud and bright in the cool North Coast air, as people shuffled in through the masses. The Tea Baggin’ Wagon was parked out front, ready to supply any and everyone with a smile and a hot cup of free tea. Danny Corn was already on, so I finished a smoke and went inside to catch the set of the DJ who I had yet to see, and who’s info was difficult to find. I was instantly pleased with the upbeat Dub tunes pumping through the old building. Danny‘s style was a perfect opener for the headlining act, incorporating instrumental sounds (foreign to most genres in the mainstream electronic scene) into deep bass and heavy drums. He worked this incorporation to a T when he blended some classic Neptunes with a pamp nasty dance hall beat that lifted the already elevated atmosphere to new heights.
After checking out the DJ booth for a minute, I made the rounds through the slowly filling venue to absorb the stimuli and take photos of my fellow sub junkies and sexytime shwillie mamas. As I paroozed alone, a peculiar and (until recently) unfamiliar feeling came over me- an intimate connection with our scene. The shows in Humboldt County always have such a positive vibe, with no influences of violence nor exclusivity. People of ALL sorts drink, smoke and dance together, and dance HARD. Big city shows are great in their own way, but its a great feeling to be part of an open family of music lover knuckleheads who gather at cow barns, house parties, and congregate in the sun at boat launches and dive bars. Where closing time means after party, and sun rise means rage shades and mimosas at the beach. Where five to fifteen bucks can get you in a dope venue to listen to some of the biggest acts around, for half the price of San Fran or New York shows… and the lineups keep coming non-stop.
As the evening progressed, Danny Corn finished his set with some melodic psyche trance to slow the mood and allow Sidecar Tommy (see below) and David Satori to tinker with their gear. When the music started, the feeling was intense as I had never seen Beats Antique before. I missed out, due to slacking on sold out tickets, for a show earlier in the year that got some LiS reppin’ on the first of many West Coast write ups (Sea of Dreams). I was thinking, as Satori seduced the violin and the flute tweeted out melodic riddims by guest musician Evan Solida, that it was a nice change to have some real live beauty in my ears as opposed to the robot warfare ruckus that is dubstep. My eyes agreed with the beauty as Zoe Jakes obliged me with a personal pose before sauntering up the steps from backstage, splashing into a sea of smoke and lights. Her movements seemed angelic with elements of devilish temptation, and her performance paired nicely with the slow yet steadily progressing melodies.
The vibe continued slow and easy for the first two songs, seeming more like a recital than a seamless DJ set, as they would pause and introduce the next song. As Zoe exited stage right (to rest I’m sure, since her energy was non-stop until this point), Satori introduced a new ‘yet to be titled’ song. It started with their signature Middle Eastern feel, before dropping into a simply nasty womper that allowed the place to finally blow up to it’s fullest potential. HUMBOLDT LOVES GRIMEY DUBSTEP. It was at this time that I put down the camera and jumped into the masses of raglans to let loose for a spell, and do how I do on the dance floor- go fuckin nuts.
The show continued mixing in and out of rhythmic world tunes set to commanding afro-hip hop beats and dub based wobble synths, all the while returning back to the melodic and simply beautiful cultural music that is Beats Antique… (and only Beats Antique). The venue complimented the evening’s vibe perfectly, with it’s high ceilings, classic theatre decor and two story screen for displaying the group’s organic and triptastically-tribal visuals, at times cosmic in nature. The whole evening seemed to tie in to a World feel, especially after hearing from Satori that all the proceeds from the ticket sales went to help the people of Haiti still recovering from the recent deadly earthquake.
The night came to a finale a little closer to 1 o’clock than I would have liked, but what a raging finish it was. Zoe had changed out of her traditional belly dancing regalia and donned a more futuristic and form fitting get-up, which was just about enough to make me (and everyone else in the building) fall in love in her and the moment at hand. Her dancing became much more sexual and aggressive then her previous belly dancing, which might have had something to do with the matching gas mask covering her face. With Janet Jackson like gyrations she used a chair- that we all were jealous of- to absolutely wile out with perfect timing. With a spin and a jump, she hopped off the chair and dived off the stage to float on the crowd, fully trusting her body to the masses that adore her. As she made her way back to the stage, I grabbed what was left of our group’s champagne bottle and made her the best offering I could. With her hearty swig, I realized how lost in this amazing moment I was and deeply appreciated the fact that we had shared a drink and a dance. As the next and final track progressed, violin centered and laden with sticky synths, the light show intensified and before I knew it all of the performers were going animal wild on stage, wearing an assortment of bizarre masks. The place erupted and absolutely everyone was on their feet, if not dancing in mid air. The animals on stage began to pulse in sync with the subwoofers that melted the walls. As the mayhem reached it’s pinnacle, a shirtless Satori threw down the fiddle and went for a ride, crowd surfing the rage waves in Arcata. It was simply an amazing end to an unforgettable performance.*
INTERVIEW/CONVERSATION WITH DRUMMER “SIDECAR” TOMMY CAPPEL
As the house lights dominated the atmosphere, I took it upon myself to seek out one of the tribal trinity to get a few words and sneak back behind the scenes. Back behind the smoke and subwoofers, just outside the rear fire exit, I ran into Sidecar Tommy enjoying some cool air after a heated drum session. He was extremely down to earth and friendly, and the scenario was living proof of the intimate atmosphere of the Humboldt music scene. My interaction was much less of an interview and more of a conversation, but I did get a few main points that were worth telling, and worth remembering after standing in front of a wall of sound for the past 3 hours. I was interested in hearing about Beats Antique‘s recent jaunt on Bassnectar‘s “Other Side” tour, and what playing for the Bassnectar audience was like compared to shows that they headline. Tommy basically said he is down to play for anyone that wants to dance and come out, but did mention some mixed reactions at some venues along the way. When asked about which cities he likes the best, he was quick to shout out Denver and Boulder, Colorado as his favorite to perform in, and based on my experience at Denver’s BETA over the summer, I understood fully.
My next questions revolved around the increased use of dubstep in today’s electronic scene and how more and more artists are turning to the WOMP. He agreed that its becoming a more influential element, but when asked how it applies to the music they produce, or should I say compose, he made it a point to say that’s not where Beats Antique is going. “We’re trying to use dubstep that isn’t dubstep,” he said, by borrowing other artists’ synth lines and FX to compliment the unique cultural feel of their style. They turn to the heavy bass because sometimes “dubstep is necessary to really rock,” however they make sure to continually revisit the melodic cultural roots of Beats Antique. Sidecar Tommy didnt hesitate to name Ill Gates (of Canada) as his favorite DJ on the Grime and Dubstep scene, but also mentioned he didn’t listen to the genre all that much.
Wrapping up the interview so Tommy could get moving, I asked a few final questions concerning the use of dance as a huge cornerstone of their act, and was interested to hear that the beautiful Zoe Jakes was the one who contacted Sidecar and David and organized the now world-famous project. “At first I was worried that the dancing would detract from the music,” but after their first performance Tommy realized it contributed heavily in getting people moving and involved. “Dancing replaces the need for annoying hype-man style crowd engagement,” he said, and it made me think back to the techno duo Prodigy, who would tour with their homie who’s job was to rage on stage. (I always loved this idea, and have ideas myself for when the Hardware Heroes make it big. Stay tuned, world.)
With that, I shook his hand and thanked him greatly for his time, for such an awesome experience, and told him to check out the site. As I was in the alley outside furiously finishing my notes and jotting quotes, the door shut and I walked up to the front where some were reaching the outdoors for the first time. Based on the energy of the crowd I knew that the evening’s future festivities would be well attended. I was quick to hop at the chance to spin some womps at the infamous “Sexy Time” party house, which lasted into the wee hours, despite a few technical difficulties. As I packed up my gear, the sun was rising and a little rage-bird informed us of a boat launch party down by the mouth of the Mad River. Upon arrival I was pleased, yet not at all surprised, to see two 5ft Mackie stage monitors with a full serrate setup, a Honda generator, and a bevy of topless partygoers bathing in the warm California sun. There were titties, mimosas and Drum n Bass all day long, which (along with tech-house) are my favorite kind of beats in those early mornings where the decision has been made to keep it moving. I love these people and this place I now call home. I’m not alone in my love for all the artists like Danny, Zoe, Tommy and David who love it up here too, and make it a point to come to town and share so much mind blowing music with the community. Until the next womper this is the Doctor of Rage signing off. As always: Use Your Head and Keep It Movin’, but remember to stop and soak up the sun (and DnB) and realize how awesome this life can be.
*I have failed to report this whole experience visually by running out of film, and failed to report it with words, because for some things words will just never suffice. Thanks to my boy Gummy Bear for hooking up some bonus pictures of Zoe raging with the gas mask and crowd surfing.