Concert Reviews

Crystal Castles at the Ogden Theatre, with HEALTH, 10/17/12


Crystal Castles (Ethan Kath and Alice Glass) carry out the perfect combination of disaffected mystery; the duo's artistic rebelliousness is a coalescence of beat-driven abrasion, sterile melody and the ability to not give one fuck if anyone in the audience is there or not. But last night at the packed Ogden Theatre, the crowd wanted to be there, grasping at any chance to help carry Glass through each of her ceremonial stage dives.

See also: - HEALTH's John Famiglietti on Rhino, Pictureplane and being flipped off on NIN tour - Live Review: HEALTH at Rhinoceropolis - Review: Crystal Castles at the Ogden, 8/10/10 - Crystal Castles: I hate myself for loving you

Before any of that, though, HEALTH played a set of songs set up in a semi-circle, with multi-instrumentalist John Famiglietti sitting at the center as the main attraction. Whether he was twisting knobs, banging his drum or wearing his bass like a purse, Famiglietti never once stopped whipping his hair -- but the effect between strobes was grandly effective, a dimension added to the band's short bursts of sound structures.

"DEATH+" let Jake Duzsik's soft voice shine subtly, the waves of melody-driven noise washing over the crowd for HEALTH's abbreviated but lush set. A cover of Pictureplane's "Goth Star" was moving, too, though it was unclear if it registered with everyone looking on. HEALTH made good on its speedy, hard work and as the band left the stage, Duzsik gave a "thanks" and a "goodbye" to onlookers, serving as the only time during the evening (that I witnessed) anyone on stage spoke directly to the audience.

Just after 10:15 p.m. Ethan Kath and Alice Glass appeared with negative fanfare, except for the roll of synthetic fog. The hour-long set of eye-burning LED strobes kicked in with "Seed" and the duo -- plus, as always, a live drummer -- was off. Glass's signature black bob was now a sharp, crystal blue, hair shaking wildly as her tiny frame flopped along the front of the stage. For the entirety of the show, Kath stood working intently behind his equipment, barely looking up to acknowledge anyone other than Glass, who would join him at his station periodically through the night. Not that it mattered if he did so much as raise his eyes toward the sea of hands -- those hands were all waiting for Glass, anyway.

And Glass made good on her taunts -- "Baptism" saw the singer step from the stage to the barricade, then over the barricade and into the crowd. Hands held her high as she screamed, the crowd acting in a seemingly respectful manner and honoring the vocalist's minimal personal space. Next came Crystal Castles' reworking of "Crimewave" by tourmates HEALTH, a song that served as both band's official introductions to the world in 2007 and has continued to be a staple of the acts' sets.

A break from singing and mobbing herself with fans in the pit, Glass stepped up to work with Kath and his synthetic instrumentation. Then came "Alice Practice" and the search for a light of her cigarette. From the barricades, Alice reached out for a lighter, and spent several seconds mid-song trying to get her smoke lit. The cigarette would burn through several more songs, as Glass sang and floated once again on the top of the audience and back up to her highest podium to play music with Kath.

Stage diving seemed to be Glass's trick of the night; it was as if the audience itself was merely a prop for her to use while she belted out her signature from-the-bottom-of-a-well scream. After a brief exit, Crystal Castles came back on stage for two more songs, and just as apathetically as they had arrived, they left. The audience was clearly satisfied, but the performers showed no positive or negative signs of how they felt it had unfolded. But that's the beauty of a Crystal Castles show: It isn't about emotion, it is about delivering the art that was promised. And Crystal Castles faithfully delivered.


Personal Bias: HEALTH is one of my top ten favorite bands of all time.

Random Detail: I was offered "spaghetti" in the lobby. I have no idea what that means.

By The Way: HEALTH's John Famiglietti hung out at the merch table after the band's set, selling and signing shirts and fielding compliments like, "You're a rock star, bro!" It was very, very bizarre.

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies