Moshi Moshi / Brothers Past, The Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale, FL- 3/5
The oft-overused clich#34;when it rains it pours" is quite apropos for South Florida, an area known for freak torrential thunderstorms that flood the street bumper-high until you drive right out of it back into the sunshine. But if you live down here and love live music, you know that the same is true when it comes to quality shows. Our location deters many bands from making the trek from Georgia or even Orlando to play in what is considered a medium-sized market by the music industry. But when the shows are scheduled and the dates are set, there are often times when there is so much good music being played within a fifty-mile radius that you can't even begin to see it all. This past NYE was just like that: four Phish shows, countless after-parties, and the inaugural JamCruise brought a Bonnaroo's worth of jammed-out intensity to the Sunshine State.
After that vacation from reality, the Florida faithful began to get giddy for the first weekend in March. On Saturday, March 6, the second annual Langerado Music Festival would kick off summer festival season in a way only South Florida could providethree months early. Tickets were bought and plans were made, but soon more shows were announced, guaranteeing light wallets and over-drafted bank accounts for those who just had to see it all.
But the dark horse show, the one that made the weekend musically spectacular, however, was like most great South Florida jamband moments: a sweaty Friday night in the dark, smoky Culture Room. The not-quite-close to capacity crowd came out pumped up, and for good reason. They knew that they were in store for a long night of fist-pumping, dance-floor raging, courtesy of the fine people at Brothers Past and Moshi Moshi. Many in the audience were in from out of townfor Langerado, South Beach’s Winter Music Conference, a Shangri-La for dance and electronic music aficionados, or just this one show. Anticipation was high from the moment Brothers Past hit the stage for their opening set.
I walked in a few minutes late and instantly BP’s dark drum n’ bass and driving, incessantly cyclical jamming roared through sonic barriers, pushing the crowdand the speaker stacksto their limits early on. Guitarist Tom Hamilton’s impressive stage setup allowed him to relax his axe at times to fool around on his electronic toys, which included both a mini e-drum kit and a Kaos Pad, usually used by DJs to warp and twist records on the fly, and utilized by Hamilton to play sound man when the dance groove overpowers the rock one. Things soon slowed to a more ambient pace, layered ethereal noises earth creating textures of sound more than melody. And just like that, the set was over. Technical difficulties brought an end to "Up In Arms", and it was time for a cold beer.
I barely had time to drink it before Moshi Moshi hit the stage for their inaugural performance outside the greater Philadelphia region. Drummer Sam Altman and keyboardist Aron Magner, both of the Disco Biscuits, have been trying out their side project’s material for the hardcore Biscuits’ fans for a few weeks, and now was the time to try it out on a mostly unsuspecting audience. The two huddled over their equipment in the middle of the stage, testing their PowerBooks and the array of synthesizers that lay before them. And then the onslaught began. Heavy breakbeats and drum n’ bass poured forth at an indeterminable and possibly infinite number of beats per minute before morphing into an angry techno-fied circus theme. Magner bounced up and down throughout and even broke into a few full-on dance moves on more than one occasion, and Altmanwho usually hides behind his kit in the back of the stage with a dour look on his facewas front and center, headphones positioned on top of his trucker’s cap and cigarette dangling from his mouth as his head bobbed up and down to the beat.
The first of many surprises was revealed when the blank screen to the left of Altman lit up. Jeff Garbaz, a Rochester, NY-based visual-projection artist, had been flown in for Langerado and signed up to add his unique blend of digital video and computer manipulation to the evening’s festivities. The quality of the light show added greatly to the vibe of the evening, as Garbaz tweaked images of on-stage antics to provide even more sensory overload to the crowd.
With the spectacle behind them, Moshi Moshi continued to blend audio samples with slamming beats, even reaching into reggae and a simply nasty version of an already nasty song, NWA’s "8 Ball". Between distorted verses Altman let loose more beats, interspersing the intensity with interludes of hard core rap. Moshi Moshi divided passages of gooey bass guitar and wah wah-ed up organ tracks with interludes of intense high tempo electronic music.
One-by-one, the members of Brothers Past began to make their way back on stage, building a vicious jam from the foundation laid down by half the Biscuits before they left the stage. BP started their set slowly, finishing the strong version of "Bitches & Candy" that they had started earlier in the evening. Soon a jam straight outta afterhours rave clubs was pounding in my ears, four-on-the-floor and electro vocal samples resumed the dance party, one that would not start until the show came to a close after 3 AM. The set raged on, high intensity, low down time. Only brief vocal phrases interrupted the extended jam, serving as the only signpost to when one song had ended and another began. As the set slowed and came to a close, the members of Brothers Past left the stage and were replaced by Magner and Altman, who headed for the drum kit for this round. Then, a new player emerged and took his place next to Brothers Past keyboardist Tom McKee, creating a six-handed synth monster for a few minutes before McKee left the stage.
It was another major player in the burgeoning "jam-tronica" movement coming in for a soon-to-be intense collaboration. Jamie Shields is best known as the wizard on the keys for the New Deal, but he was also a member of Sucker Punch (with Magner, Biscuits’ bassist Marc Brownstein, and drummer Zach Velmer of STS9) and JM2 (featuring Brownstein and Jon Gutwillig from the Biscuits, as well as drummer Mike Greenfield). He’s also scheduled to play in Lavernus Cool (Brownstein, Al Schnier of moe., and drummer Joe Russo of the Duo), a project attempted and aborted last year, but revived for the next Syn Party. Needless to say, he has experience playing real dance music with real instruments, and doing it with talented musicians that he does not play with often.
From the first few minutes I could tell that this was to be better than all of those classic collaborations. If the promoters of the Winter Music Conference knew that the best dance music that night was coming from somewhere other than their party, boy would they have been mad: Electro dub that would have made Peter Kruder jealous moved effortlessly into slamming techno, all the while being dangerously close to crossing into trance and house music. Bits and pieces of almost every part of the catchall "electronica" genre were touched upon in the course of the monstrous jam. Soon, BP’s Clay Parnell returned to the stage and picked up his bass, allowing the two keyboardists to up the ante, stretching out a bit more musically, each trying to top the other and bringing the dance floor to yet another frenzy. Then Tom Hamilton returned, bringing his guitar and multiple effects into the mix and elevating the level of musical interplay onstage.
The Culture Room has a pretty small stage, and it seemed it was getting more and more crowded. When BP drummer Rick Lowenberg appeared and headed over to Hamilton’s e-drum kit and McKee joined Shields. Jamie then led the new band into an instrumental New Deal-esque version of "Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough", and then back into jam territory for the show’s remainder.
When the music finally stopped for the first time in over two hours, the musicians seemed almost overwhelmed by what had just gone down and were congratulating each other on what they ahd together. Those lucky enough to have just witnessed the show wiped their brows and headed outside, where South Florida’s humid night heat was a welcome reprieve from the sauna inside. Time for a little sleep before what was sure to be a long, hot, happy day (and weekend) filled with good music and good times in the sunshine.