The Showbox in SoDo is an impressive building. It looks like someone wanted to build a warehouse, but got bored with that concept halfway through and finished it as a ski lodge instead. A broad, open concrete floor gives way to wooden rafters and chains of decorative light. In other words, it’s an accurate synopsis of the overall flavor of Seattle as a city.
This time, I was there to see one of my favorite active bands, Chromeo, after a two-year period of almost complete silence from them as they worked on their latest albums, singles from which are being released almost monthly. During this break, they took the time to rebuild their set and revamp a lot of their old material for concert play, so needless to say; I was pretty excited. I was also far from the only one who felt that way. The house was packed wall to wall with fellow funk enthusiasts, all clamoring to hear how far the band has come musically. But first, as is by now customary, a warm-up.
An LA-based EDM duo calling themselves Phantoms took the stage to hype up the crowd before the main event. Composed of Kyle Kaplan and Vinnie Pergola, former child actors, their sound is reminiscent of a lot of their contemporaries. Semi-layered rhythms peppered with simple melodies and the occasional stint of actual singing. Nothing too incredibly challenging, but sufficient to get the crowd moving and the good vibes flowing. Sort of the same way that a slice of pepperoni pizza isn’t what anyone would call exotic food, while still being an incredibly satisfying thing to eat. Their attitudes sold it very well, too. Appearing too aloof or full of oneself is an issue many EDM musicians run into, and Phantoms avoided it by projecting approachableness at every given opportunity, frequently going out of their way to express how incredibly thankful they were just to be able to play for us. So, nothing mind-blowing, but a pleasant experience nonetheless.
If I have a single gripe about the evening’s festivities, it would be the wait time between the opener and the main act. Chromeo themselves waited a full 45 minutes after the conclusion of Phantoms’ set to make their appearance, during which I had plenty of time to realize how hungry I was, how tired I was of standing up, and how uncomfortably long the walk to the bathroom would be. All of this faded away from the instant the duo stepped on stage. Their setup featured a catwalk-like stair thing, synchronized LED bars framing the stage, two chrome synths with legs as stands, and an entire armada of audio equipment, all of which was used at some point during their show. The light effects were accented, quite literally, by smoke and mirrors. As the first chords of their opening track hit, a bright light lit up the smoke hovering over the stage; producing some nifty silhouette effects. Likewise, throughout the show, Dave 1 (lead guitar, vocals) would occasionally take center stage, where a fleet of smaller spotlights would center on his mirrored guitar, lighting up the room with refracted beams of light. Over the top? Sure. Cooler than anything I’ve seen in a very long time? Absolutely.
The thing that sets Chromeo apart from other artists frequently stuffed into the EDM box is how their music is produced on-stage. Sure, samples are being played, but the vast majority of their performance is them setting up a beat, then layering synths, talkbox, bass, and guitar over it until the rest of the song materializes. This also leaves them plenty of room to mess around and deviate from the script, making the songs everyone already knows from their recorded works sound fresh and alive once again. New instrumental breakdowns, original solos, and fun in-jokes litter their set, and pair nicely with Dave 1’s natural charm and copious amounts of crowd-work.
In the end, a show I’d arrived to feeling worn-out from the long drive ended up reenergizing me more than all the caffeine in the world ever could. The combination of rare funk, good people, and a great venue is not to be missed if you ever do get the opportunity to catch Chromeo live in Seattle. They have a new single dropping today, and the full album will be out there in the very near future.
Photo Credit: Photo Taken by Rune Torgersen