Showing up for Battles with my girlfriend this Saturday was one of the best decisions that I made this weekend (maybe aside from eating at Volcano Sushi just before, which was simply a fantastic sushi joint on East Hastings st.).
Not only is Battles one of my favorite bands (and a huge influence on my own personal musical style), but their live performance is one of the most inspiring that I've seen to date.
When the band first walks on stage, everyone's first thought is; "Where the heck is John Staniers' comically raised crash cymbal?"
Well as John walks on stage, he grabs his cymbal and raises it 3 feet higher than it was.
"There we go!", sighs the audience in relief.
In case you've never seen how high that cymbal is normally; here it is:
To our surprise, he then grabs it again, and raises it another 2 feet into the air! He brings the cymbal so high up that the top half of the stand separates from the bottom half, and he has to reattach it. He has stretched it to the limit.
Battles opened up with "Africastle", the starting track on their new album; "Gloss Drop".
Now the track was never particularly exciting for me on the album, but after seeing it live I'll have to say that it is now comes alive!
With John Staniers' back up against the fiery glow of the man-sized LED screens playing the sleigh bells, it simply breeds an epic-ness that deserves attention.
Watch the video above to see how astounding this track was live. All the video's that I've posted on this page were taken by a fan, Youtube user "flowbeeee". So I'll send a thankful shout out to him/her for taking video with such high quality audio! (Although be aware that some of the tracks end early)
My thought (along with most people there) before the show was "How the heck are they going to do the songs that have guest singers in them? And without Tyndai Braxton in the band, how on earth are they going to pull off his Zany vocal lines?"
The first half of the answer my friends, is magic!
The 2nd half is that they used samples of each singer singing, paired with video's of each singer to play along with them.
But mainly magic.
Take a look at how they played their single "Ice Cream", using Audio and Video samples of Matias Aguayo singing it.
The best part of this for me was simply the hilarious 'tongue-in-cheek' sample loop at the end where the video was just zoomed into Matias' lips as he kept singing the same ridiculous phrases, over and over again.
Matias Aguayo's Lips!
The samples didn't stop there. We had samples of Gary Numan, Kazu Makino, and Yamantaka Eye.
Take a look at this following video if you'd like to see the video from my perspective.
I'm not pansy, and I love being at the front of the show.
So I battle with sweaty, disgusting hipsters for my spot at the front. This includes the washed out, 30+ years old tattooed woman who kept pinching my butt.
She was cracked-out enough to say "You liked it", even though I gave her the dirtiest, most disgusted look anyone could ever portray. Whatever you have to say to justify yourself, sister...
Of course, let's not mention the sweatiest guy alive behind me who kept pushing himself into my back. To give you an idea of just how sweaty this guy was; my back was entirely covered in sweat to the point where I had to drive home shirtless to prevent my car seats from getting stained.
And none of it was my own sweat. It all came from him.
Speaking of sweat...
I thought that no one could be as sweaty as Mr. "rape-your-back-with-salty-dna-water" behind me. But by the time the concert was halfway over, John Stanier had completely proven me wrong.
Thought you had never seen someone pour their heart out into music as much as your country-singing mother? Think again.
When John stood up for a small break before the band played their last track, Sundome, you could very visibly see that his pants were completely soaked in sweat.
And I don't mean in an over-exaggerating manner. I mean to say that he completely and unequivocally looked like he had just emerged from the waters of lake Michigan.
Being in the front of the concert, every single time that he hit his high crash cymbal, we were showered in the mans' sweat.
I'm sure that more than a few women were impregnated after mixing so much of their DNA with him. And from more than 10 feet away!
Now that's a feat!
Now it probably had to do somewhat with the fact that I was right at the front of the venue where Ian's amp was, but his keyboard's were easily 2x as loud as the rest of his band.
Although I was so close to the front though, I would mention that his guitar was completely balanced with the rest of the mix, so I still think he was over blasting his keyboard amp. In that case, what the heck Ian?
It was super distracting, and was probably my only complaint about the actual performance.
Yeah, I'm probably being picky. But remember that part of the reason I'm writing this is so y'all musicians can take this information and apply it to your own shows.
Balance is important! Don't make the same mistake!
At one point near the end of the concert, Dave and Ian started talking with the crowd. They did the typical "Vancouver is way better than any other place that we play at!", which they probably also said in Toronto, and then the place before that.
I would suspect that they were slightly poking fun at the crowd, but we all still went wild for the comment. Flattery is expensive, don't you know?
Anyways, after a bit of banter (Which was incredibly hilarious I should mention. I wish I had a recording of it because I remember laughing like a hyena on mescaline), Ian looks at the crowd with stumped look on his face and asks, "So...what do you guys want to talk about?"
My best friend/bass player promptly speaks up and shouts "Why did you guys write a song for twilight?"
Ian chuckles to himself, and starts with some sort of half-contrived explanation about how it was an interesting project to work on.
And then he finally catches himself in the excuse and just says…
…"We did it for the money!". Dave agrees with him, "Yeah, we definitely just did it for the money".
It was a worthy and amusing answer that I think everyone appreciated.
Another fan asks them about their musical appearance on the video game "Little Big Planet" (which I own, and is an incredibly creative and captivating game).
They of course answer with some witty banter that I'm once again ashamed to say I don't remember. They did mention that some people recognize them in coffee shops or on the street because of their appearance in it.
Anyways, it was some of the most enjoyable on-stage banter that I've heard, and you can tell just by talking with the guys that they are incredibly intelligent.
My last complaint it...what the balls was with Ian's mustache? It was alarmingly jarring, and frankly I was a bit creeped out by it.
It definitely was a pedo-mustache that I would never want to wear, even to a mustache party (you know, with all the mustache parties that I regularly attend…)
I just thought it would be a good thing to mention because anyone that is afraid of terrifying mustaches should be warned that they may not want to attend this Battles tour.
Sorry for the spoiler!
Although I could only see part of Dave's setup (because I was more towards stage right), I could see that he was using a Line 6 DL4 for delay, and a Gibson TGE-05 Echoplex Digital Pro Plus for his loops.
That Echoplex is on some of my wanted gear now because of how incredible it was.
The Echoplex is a complex looper that syncs up with the MIDI tracks that were playing; without that capability I doubt Battles would have even been able to play the set at all.
Ian was also using an Echoplex, and 2 Axiom 49 MIDI keyboards that were DIY strapped to 2 keyboard stands with velcro so he could use them at weird angles.
The keyboards were running through 2 Macbook pros, and I know for certain that he was using Mainstage 2 (the live performance proponent of Logic Studio 9).
I can't be 100% certain, as I couldn't see his 2nd computer at a good angle, but I believe he was also using the Enigma software that is used for managing his keyboard presets.
He ran the keyboards through his Roland JC120, which is a Jazz Chorus Amp, as well he also had a Marshall head and Ampeg Cab for his guitars.
I couldn't see what he was using to sync up the audio/video samples of the singers, which is a total shame because I was extremely curious to see what he was using (If anyone knows, be sure to Contact me and let me know!)
In any case, I've made a few decisions on what new equipment to buy (ECHOPLEX!), and some new techniques to try (running Electronic instruments through a distorted amp to get some new sounds), so I'll be working on that this week to see what I can come up with!
Addition: Porl Th'earn has written in and given me some more information about the setup that these guys are using the comments below. Here's what he has to say:
Here's a few more pictures of the concert that I took. Enjoy!
Go see Battles if they come to any town within 100 miles of you, you won't regret it!
My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.
If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.
Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot.
I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.