Show Review: Plaid with John Tejada and Portable Sunsets at The Mezzanine, 11/25/2011

by Jonathan Pirro on November 28, 2011

Plaid is the Welsh word for PARTY

Andy Turner and Ed Handley of Plaid

It’s never an easy task to put on a show in the middle of a holiday season, especially when the date of your performance falls on the oft-proclaimed “Biggest Shopping Day Of The Year”. How many people are going to be willing to stay out for many more late hours, dancing the night away and reveling in swirling shadows and heaving colors, when many of them have inevitably been up since the crack of dawn? It stands to reason that you should bring something special to your show, something that will keep the evening interesting for the full duration — acts and performances that are ready to shift at the drop of a hat, and keep your audience enthralled, but not so boggled that their desire to dance is interrupted. In short, you’ll need to throw a party — a slightly experimental one, in fact — and for the duo of Plaid, this is done with a combination of brilliantly crafted sonic creations and a host of openers that held the dance floor down solidly by themselves.

Peter Segerstrom, otherwise known as Portable Sunsets

Peter Segerstrom, otherwise known as Portable Sunsets

Being that Plaid is known for their minimalistic but ever-shifting styles of electronics, it made sense to have a group of openers who skirted the line in their own ways. San Francisco’s own Portable Sunsets, the solo project of one Peter Segerstrom, filled the Mezzanine with a set of delicate but precise beats, a subtle nod to Kraftwerk in their steady pulses, while adding his own vocals as accompaniment throughout the set. His own contributions were both lyrical and sonic in nature; some would be whispered or rattling, as if pulled out through a telephone receiver, while others would fill the space between the steady bass and gentle bleeps with a chilling sibilance. Seamlessly following his hour-long set was the less daring but still danceable house rhythms of Austrian music producer John Tejada, who took up the position of providing a transition and a breather between the two darker and more unsettling acts of the night. About five or six regular sequences of synths were present during the sophomore set, with expert care used to shift between them, and a dizzying set of projections to match the various movements and the returns to them.

John Tejada, refracted

John Tejada, refracted

It’s a rare sight to see a show that goes so late that the headlining band doesn’t actually start until the following day, but it was indeed a few minutes after the hour of midnight before Plaid took the stage. Armed with an impressive array of gear, and three¬†laptops, the duo proceeded to shift the mood of the night into territory that was simultaneously jubilant and disquieting. For those who had come out for a late night at a dance club, the undulating acidic beats of Plaid, crossed with a rather stark stage appearance that abandoned nearly all of the floodlights in favor of bleak geometric projections, undoubtably got a few dancers scratching their heads. However, the devotees of the London duo were terribly excited to shift out of the steady, mind-numbing house pulse that had been shaking the Mezzanine’s walls for the past three hours, and into the world of strange time signatures and alien samples that the pair used for the length of their set.

A slightly more panoramic view as the lights fall down

A slightly more panoramic view as the lights fall down

While it was quite a longer and later night than I had planned to attend, I was pleased to see such a large collection of electronic styles within a single evening, despite being there entirely to see Plaid for as long as possible. Their performance did not disappoint; selections of the evening ranged from their new release,¬†Scintilli, to a few special selections from the soundtrack of Heaven’s Gate, with some old classics thrown in when even the devoted fans were starting to drift slightly from the dance floor. Adding such a minimal set of visuals to an eclectic collection of samples and melodies is never an easy task; more often, the latter is driven by the former, and lacks a certain performance punch when the two do not accompany each other in performances of the genre. I could most closely compare this performance to my experience with Meat Beat Manifesto: though it was more visually driven by projections and animations than by flashing lights and frenetic real-time instrumentation, both acts possessed a brilliant mind for the creation of intricate compositions that were still catchy enough to keep believers on the dance floor.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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