Saturday, June 17, 2006

Groove Armada / Scissor Sisters

The Conversation
Club Mephisto / Sonar 2006, Barcelona, Spain

Interior, Night. The first of two shows we're discussing is Groove Armada, a DJ (at least, only one is here tonight) spinning at an out-of-the-way club in a random neighborhood in Barcelona. There are about five opening acts tonight, and we arrive to a packed house and the final (and super boring) opener at 1:45 am. Spain. It wakes up late. Photos forthcoming.

This show was heavily advertised at the Sonar festival, so there is high crossover with festival attendees--the young and hip from all over Europe, the US, and Canada. You can pick out the Spanish women from the tourists by their impractical footwear and glittery belts. One member of the Eurosvelte is Flipper. She loooooves her long hair and ensures its proper appreciation by whipping it around her head every 30 seconds or so. Several people step back a few times to avoid the more airborne flippage.

Stomp is next, and important as she is a perfect indicator of how well the DJ is doing. When Stomp stomps, then we have a solid beat going and all is well. If she stops and moves uncertainly, then the DJ is not cutting it (this happens several times during the opening act). It would behoove DJs the world over to notice these people and make sure they keep stomping. When Groove Armada finally takes the stage, the only way we know it's him is that he has a guy sort of rapping on mic who yells "Groove Armada!" every 15 seconds. Yay branding! Groove Armada ups the quality of the mix 100%, and Flipper, Stomp, and the rest of the crowd are supremely pleased.

CUT TO Exterior, Day. We have hustled over to one of the Sonar stages to see a band called White Diet, who we've never heard of but who sound interesting on paper. As we approach the stage we hear the Scissor Sisters singing "Take Your Mama Out Tonight," so I think, great, the band hasn't taken the stage yet. But in fact they HAD, and White Diet was a ruse for a surprise show by the Scissor Sisters. Hooray!! This band delivers joy, and the crowd is thrilled and dancing.

The interaction between the Scissor Sisters and the crowd makes me think about how different the scene was for the Groove Armada show. Jake and Ana from Scissor Sisters know exactly what to say to get a crowd to jump around, they bring attention to certain active audience members, and they command behavior and movement. We are in their palms. The DJs at the Groove Armada show mostly ignored the crowd. While Groove Armada pulled off an impressive mix, the guy before him seemed to play what he wanted and did not take very obvious cues from the crowd.

The shows I love most are conversations between audience and performer. It's easy for performers to get in a zone and play what they're going to play despite a crowd's reaction. You have to steel yourself against audience apathy if you want to continue as a musician, so some of that makes sense. But when you are creating flexible and nearly-improvised music, you have the luxury to react to and try to change a crowd's mood. Crowds notice this - nothing is more satisfying than a sudden change in the music just when you're starting to get bored. Groove Armada does this to a degree, but Scissor Sisters are the pros here.


Anonymous Roger said...

Like Jethro Tull, Groove Armada is not a "he" ;-)

Glad you're getting out at, morning!

11:54 AM  

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