Ed. Seattle’s Decibel Festival is, as one commenter put it, a convergence of music straight out of many of our music collections. Musician, producer, and journalist Primus Luta (David Dobson) is on the scene to bring us a vicarious experience of the sights and sounds. He brings us impressions, reflections, and videos, too. Here’s the first day; coverage of the remaining festival is to come. -PK
Seattle locals will tell you, August and September are the sweet months, and walking around Capitol Hill where people are full of smiles in short sleeves with their legs exposed, you get the sense that there is merit to the claim. The festival base of operations, Pravda Studios in the heart of Capital Hill, is a large event space with strong multi-media support. In the lobby a four monitor wall display offers a live slide-show of pictures being taken during the Festival. Festival sponsor, Microsoft, have the second studio equipped with multiple machines for attendees to get the latest information. It is cut off by a room divider separating it from studio one, where the conference portion of the festival takes place.
Decibel founder is quick to note that the festival is not just about the performances, but also has an educational aspect facilitated through the Decibel Conference. The first day of the conference focuses on technology and techniques. In the first session Kris Moon gives an in-depth workshop on Serato Scratch Live, touching on techniques for adding MIDI controllers into the live turntable set-up with Serato. Ghostly International artist Lusine takes to the podium next to talk about organizing Ableton Live for performance. Where both of these sessions focused on specific platforms for live performance, in the last session Ean Golden talks controllers, specifically the MIDI Fighter platform which uses modular video game style interfaces to build custom controllers.
Following the workshops the divider between studios is pulled back, expanding the space for the Opening Gala event where Kris and Ean share live set spots with Derek Mazzone and Introcut. As the double sized room starts filling in one begins to get the sense that indeed they are in an electronic music festival, though not necessarily the standard fair. The contemplative face was just as present as the gyrating waist, and often from the same individual. Each person in attendance acting as a microcosm of the festival’s vision.
Chatter around the room is all anticipation as participants plot out their weekend by the artists they want to be sure to catch. A common theme amongst all is that the weekend will include a few hard choices, as overlapping events make it virtually impossible to catch all the artists on ones list. A seven year volunteer for takes as much pride in the growth of the festival as Decibel founder Sean Horton. They both agree that the growth is good, but more importantly it has happened without sacrifice of the original intent to be an event which spotlights electronic artists who might otherwise be under the radar.
As the sun sets some festival goers file out of Pravda Studios and into the line across the street at Neumos where Ghostly International has a showcase lined up to christen this years festival. Mux Mool starts things off in the right direction with his breed of heavy hitting, modular hip-hop beats. Rocking a streamlined Ableton Live set-up with only the pad control under his fingers, he launches into his Tobacco remix to begin. Each track lures the audience deeper into the nights experience as heads nod and hands wave approval. The energetic give and take between Mux Mool and the crowd is accentuated the few times he takes to the mic to make sure they are ready for the nights journey – they are.
London’s Gold Panda takes the stage next as a name most in the crowd know, but few know exactly what to expect. Once the effect heavy live intro kicks into “You” from his Ghostly EP though, they are all in his hands. Video from the performance in an upcoming CDM interview, available in the next few days. -Ed. Lusine takes the stage next with the obvious hometeam advantage. If there were any question as to why he was teaching the afternoon Ableton session, it becomes obvious once he takes the stage. His presence is calm and collected with little animation other than the smile on his face and slight head nod. He is a master of his craft, who makes getting the dance floor steady rocking seem effortless.
The headliner for the night, Pantha Du Prince takes the stage in a black hooded overcoat with a scarf partially covering his face. He has a presence that demands attention and as he starts working controllers, contact mics and foot pedals into his own breed of noise music, the audience is sucked into a hypnotic trance. Through the shadows you can catch glimpses of his eyes, and then as the scarf is pulled down, his slightly opened mouth as he intently continues to build the tension. As percussive sounds slowly build into a beat that ramps up, as if queued by post-hypnotic suggestion, the energy in the room boils over.
As people exit the venue there is a sense of arrival. Each an everyone has made a journey to be here, and the sonic baptism which the Ghostly crew laid upon them fully immersed everyone of them into the experience that is Decibel. Some would find there way to after-hours events, others just to a bed to rest up. It is only Wednesday after all, and if this day stands as a means to measure there will be plenty in the days to come for which sleep will not be an option.