Friday, November 19, 2004

Nortec Collective

You Are Lissssstening to Los Angeles
Temple Bar, Los Angeles, CA

The Temple Bar in LA reminds me of the OK Hotel in Seattle, circa 1996. It's warm and cozy, it has red walls and art and character, and I imagine in the daylight it looks sad and lonely. It sounds like the perfect place to see the member-fluctuating Nortec Collective and some other random opening band.

The openers consist of a DJ and some drummers, and they are called, and I am not kidding, "Deejay and the Drummers." Make an effort, people. The crowd here is a bit of a shock for LA - they look like regular people, and some are even in SWEATSHIRTS. My friend is astonished and delighted by the lack of decked-out girls and heavily cologned boys. The crowd is also quite diverse, from hippie girls to hip-hop boys - a testament to Nortec's musical reach.

During the opening act, our younger and hipper friend immediately identifies the samples being used in the songs: "ooo! the theme from Kill Bill!" "Oh! the theme from [insert WB show here]!" But I have the nearly simultaneous reactions of "wait, they plan these songs?" and "wait, they plan these songs?" I thought a DJ was supposed to bring an exciting mix of samples, made more exciting by their demand that other musicians improvise and keep up. But these drummers are all coordinated in their breaks and flourishes, so while it is decent music, it comes across as contrived.

Nortec finally comes on, and they put on a show as exciting as possible for two guys stuck behind laptops all night. I guess since they are a "collective" their numbers and instrumentation can vary wildly. I have a flashback of seeing Depeche Mode in 1987 trying to rock out while they are all stuck behind their keyboards.

Some of the people at the very front are way into the music, which turns out to be a more mellow trance-y set than we expect. This is true for a couple of superfans standing near us; they are clearly disappointed by the relative lack of energy in the music. No matter how loud or seat-vibrating, I personally find trance music to be the most nap-inducing music available, so I have trouble keeping my eyes open.

The one thing that keeps me going is comparing two excellent dancers in the group: one is a short shaved-head guy near us, arms straight and jammed into coat pockets, doing rapid salsa footwork. The other is a tall lanky guy in a striped button-down shirt, doing the "dad, you dance so retarded" dance of the superwhite. They are both happy, and they are both HERE. Entranced.

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