The Moore Theatre
My friend and I approached the will call booth at The Moore Theater with the assumption that everything was going to work out fine. The bald, goateed clerk had just started his shift and was annoyed already. I handed him my identification and asked him about my photo pass to the event.
“I have no idea about that. Your tickets aren’t here.”
“Oh, wow. Um, is there any other list, or anything…?”
“The guest list isn’t here yet, like I said…”
“Oh, well you didn’t say…”
“Yeah, well… yeah.”
I couldn’t decide if I wanted to punch or hug this man. To be honest, it looked as though he could use both. So we sauntered off to the nearest watering hole to drain the lizards and get some booze in our bellies. After a neat Fernet (don’t judge me), we headed back down to the impersonal will-call window. As soon as we approached, the evil Moby shoved my tickets through the burglary slot and apologized for being so grumpy.
“Yeah the guest list came in. No photo passes, though. Sorry about that.”
“Awe shit, okay. Well, you take it easy in there, partner!”
His only response was a grimace before getting back to whatever he wasn’t doing.
The Moore’s architecture is beautiful, adorned with rococo awnings and intricate church-like crown moldings; it’s one of the few venues of its kind in Seattle. The acoustics are lacking but, (as we learned) with a good soundman on the knobs, anything is possible. We got there early enough to witness under-agers taking swigs off their flasks before security got situated. Awkward conversation circled about and some felt compelled to join in, but regretted it immediately. Meanwhile, my ADHD affected friend proceeded to count the black people in the audience.
“Nope! Still just me! I’m a lonely nigga!” So many white heads lulled and turned.
And suddenly, a Macklemore lookalike stepped on stage and the lights went down.
Pictureplane (real name Travis Egedy) was groovy and genuine–a very appropriate crowd warm-up type of opener–but he had the house soundman shrugging and fed up. He would constantly request higher volume in his monitors, which were already at full blast, despite his inability to hear his own voice. Halfway through the first song, the Denver-based producer requested that the lights be completely shut off, leaving only a red glow. His was a mix of “hip-hoppy” production schemes mixed with aspects of Drum n Bass and some Electro, of which he would quietly sing over. Pictureplane must have prepared his equipment quite a bit to have all of that free time to dance awkwardly in the dark, as little girls screamed for his pallid and emaciated gyrations. There was no doubt that some had come to see only him. Feedback from the speakers would chime in every few seconds, as the monitors were wrenched too high and, with Egedy being too shy to truly croon, it drowned out any attempt to hear his lyrics. He’s an up-and-comer and has a lot of potential, but still in the bedroom phase–I know because I’m there too. [Hell, I’m not opening for Crystal Castles, am I?] Touring is his remedy and I look forward to seeing what he does in the future.
The wait for the headliners was about 45 minutes and, being the old fart I am, my back was beginning to ache. My friend gave me disapproving looks, like I was cramping his style. We chatted up two 19 year-olds until my inner father wanted to put them in burlap sacks and drive them home. So, I reverted back to rolling my neck around like a senile ostrich and people watching. I smelled some choice THC in the air and gave an askance grandpa scowl just before the house lights went down and the aural and mental rape-session began.
The stage lights dimmed and the crowd’s shrill excitement was belted back at the stage. Ethan Kath walked straight to his workstation and cued the intro. Every Crystal Castles song’s beginning is reminiscent of an old horror movie with building crescendos that could only mean that the killer is at the door. And then, the beat dropped–the multi-colored stage lights flickered, beaming and bathing the crowd in kaleidoscopic warmth. A hooded Alice Glass maladroitly shuffled on stage like a weary druid. She picked up her delay-effected mic and wailed such lyrics as, “Virgin cells to penetrate. Too premature to permeate. They can’t elucidate. Never thought I was the enemy. I am the plague!”
The synth was piercing, crisp and smooth, only to be backed by their touring drummer. It all sounded astoundingly full and rich, considering that the acoustics in The Moore are less then desirable. I’ve seen CC three times now, and I’ve noticed that Alice is now paying closer attention to the overall sound of the live show and the vocals. She was closer to Ethan during jam sessions, plinking and plunking with toys along to the bassy soundscape. The Toronto duo currently tours with a microKorg, an Akai APC and, I believe, a Kaossilator, amongst other toys; but the crowd could care less.
Which brings me to the crowd. Lordy lordy, the crowd. I’ve never seen a band more mis-matched with their audience. Though it sounds ageist, I know that today’s average 19 year old is not going to relate with what this band is trying to say. Ethan Kath and Alice Glass are relatively quiet people and catch a lot of shit for being so solemn and shy. This, methinks, is a ploy to abscond from the generation that loves them. Their lyrics say it all (not that you would understand them the first go). They have no need to exude a persona, or be nice to people. When you’re in the public’s eye, it can be hard to behave the way that everyone expects you to. Watching them perform, I couldn’t help but feel that they’d be more comfortable in disguise. The younger crowd tends to love the fact that two “good-looking” people are making music, rather than simply focusing on the music itself. On the flip side, however, Glass seems to feed off of this, considering that you can 100% guarantee that she’s coming into the crowd–lit cigarette in hand–to be held up by adoring fans, at every single show. You can also expect that a daisy-duked, Chuck-wearing, skinny girl is going to get passed security, jump on stage, and give a despondent Ethan a kiss on the cheek. Both members come from rougher rock’n’roll backgrounds; Kath from a 1970s punk rock tribute band and Alice from a dive-bar touring Riot grrrl group. Seeing her behave the way that she does on stage is transfixing and very entertaining, but always true to her nature. It’s not a gimmick; it’s not a niche. She’s a wild animal.
Amidst the violent undulations of skinny limbs bashing my face, I had some of these insufferable, whipper-snappers, frothy at the mouth, begging me to dance.
“C’mon! Get into it!”
“My awkward head nod is dance enough!”
“I’m having a good time!”
“Oh my god! Me too!”
I quickly turned, giving the international sign for, “I’m done with you“: a shifty glare and a thumbs-up. I would occasionally look around to catch the audience’s eyes collectively closed–all arching their shoulders and stomping their heels to the beat–their faces covered in ever changing colors. Magnificently, while the light show will get on your nerves, the effects eventually trick your brain into having a menagerie of hallucinatory visions that are framed by the intrusive, abrasive, and edgy music.
Crystal Castles have continued to make changes that are conducive to their musical longevity (they’re three albums in and still as popular as ever). They’re making increasingly more experimental and provocative music, and very conscious of what’s being experienced during a live show, which can only be a sign that they will continue to flourish as dedicated artists.
All Crystal Castles photographs provided courtesy of ArelWatson.com