Sunday, November 10, 2013
Concert review: Freaky show by Beats Antique was Dallas’ most inventive this year
The stunning theatrical performance cost more than $100,000.
DEEP ELLUM Considering Oakland-based band Beats Antique is the musical manifestation of just three people, the band leaves a hell of a lasting impression. Its unique blend of world, Afro-beat and electronic styles rang loud throughout Trees in Deep Ellum Friday night accompanied by a visual feast of costumes, computer graphics and even an inflatable Cyclops bear.
It was a wild evening.
Opener Morgan Sorne, hailing from Tallahassee, Fla., kicked off the concert in a tribal whirlwind of percussion and resounding vocals. Sorne impressed show attendees with his high vocal range that soared high above a pulsating drumbeat. The band got the crowd adequately prepped for the headliner, but unfortunately ill-esha, a Vancouver-based female DJ, digressed the mood. She is a talented musician who sings over her beats, but it wasn’t enough to keep the crowd engaged.
Just after 11 p.m., however, a Middle Eastern mystique engulfed the room. Drummer Tommy Cappel and multi-instrumentalist David Satori emerged first prep the room for belly dancer Zoe Jakes’ entrance. The band’s dynamic was immediately apparent: Satori, on electronics, violin, trumpet, guitar and several other instruments, played the ring leader, ushering in each new tune; Cappel laid the foundation and pace of the show; and Jakes played the star, stunning the crowd with each of her eight glittering costumes and seductive choreography.
Beats Antique played its latest release A Thousand Faces — Act I sequentially in its entirety. In a phone conversation prior to Friday night’s performance, the band said the album was written with the theatrical show in mind. The project is based off Joseph Campbell’s theory of a monomyth, which identifies a universal pattern between all heroic tales. It says every hero – from Buddha to Jesus Christ – encounters a series of challenges he has to overcome to reach full heroic potential. The paper referenced here is called A Hero with a Thousand Faces.
“It’s not as much a story as [Campbell] is describing a structure that every story follows,” said Cappel, adding they used this template to write an album. “For every stage in the hero’s journey, we created a world.”
Jakes said using this structure made the creative process easier because “we had a purpose behind the tracks we were making.” But building the band’s stage setup was much more labor intensive and costly, they said.
Beats Antique began concepting the album in January of this year. With the help of 40 artists, designers, tech experts and fans (the band ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for a percentage of the cost), the band was able to secure and execute the awe-inspiring show that cost them more than $100,000, they said.
The production value could not be unstated. For three hours, Beats Antique led a sold-out crowd at Trees down a psychedelic rabbit hole through the most absurd and freaky dwellings of the imagination.
The stage props seemed simple enough – a series of white bird house-like boxes that transformed into rocky landscapes, ambient candle lighting and oversized eyeballs thanks to computer mapping. It was as picturesque one moment as it was trippy the next, creating a perfect canvas for the rest of the monsters and ghouls to tell their story.
Then there was Jakes, the main character of the play, who took turns playing conniving siren and ethereal muse. Her first incarnation was as a Middle Eastern goddess, decked head to toe in tarnished gold and sparkling diamonds. Jakes progressed to a cobra witch with a gold detailed headdress and an antlered deity with a white dress that inflated like a hot air balloon as she taunted the audience with her beauty.
Jakes showcased her belly dancing talent in a series of minute isolations that carried the beat from her eyes to her ribs and her hips. Even the corners of her mouth had their own choreographed role – her distinct smirk could be seen even from the balcony of the club.
Perhaps the best bit of the show came during “Doors of Destiny,” which chronicles a demonic game show. Jakes grabbed one attendee to take part, but unfortunately his destiny was doomed. As he chose to see the wonders behind door #2, the music box soundtrack slowed to a dismal pace and the aforementioned inflated Cyclops bear burst onto the stage, seemingly swallowing the participant whole. (Don’t worry, he got a commemorative T-shirt out of it.)
Despite the amazing visual stimulation, tantalizing music and immersive nature of the show, the Dallas crowd was dreadfully unenthusiastic. Patrons stood arms-crossed during the most captivating music breakdowns and shoved others out of the way without a kind a word. Watagua resident Travis Littrell described the scene as a “sad sight.” Littrell was doused with water by a concertgoer and then apprehended by Trees staff when he tried to stir up the dance floor.
“[The staff member] was like, ‘You need to stop doing that,’” Littrell said after the show. “I was just trying to show the band some love.”
Even ringleader Satori noticed and asked the crowd if they were ready to “loosen up” for some of the band’s most popular songs.
But the crowd’s energy did not deter the band from putting on its best performance to date. I’ve seen Beats Antique more times than I can count on one hand and it is better every time. Beats Antique just may be the most inventive band touring today. And they are humble to boot. All three members hung outside of Trees after the show to greet fans and take photos.
Dallasite Zhara Johnson, who never heard Beats Antique before but came to see her belly-dancing idol Zoe Jakes, said she was floored by the experience.
“I loved the visuals, the way they used projections as a prop … I loved the theatrical element and the costuming,” Johnson said trying to catch her breath. “It was not disappointing whatsoever!”
Beats Antique will release A Thousand Faces — Act II next spring.