Live Review: Diplo at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom

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Diplo, Abe Vigoda, Telepathe and Boy 8-Bit Monday, October 27, 2008 Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Better Than: You’d expect for a Monday night show.

Things were pretty grim when I first got to Cervantes’, but as the night wore on, a sizable crowd eventually showed up. For the first hour and a half or so, some guy -- whom I later found out was Boy 8-Bit -- was on stage playing records and doing the kinds of manipulations a decent DJ would do. It was a notch or five above average, percussion heavy house music, but it went on a little long.

Brooklyn’s Telepathe (pronounced “telepathy”) took the stage shortly after Boy 8-Bit made his exit. An all female three piece, the outfit plays a sort of dub heavy hip-hop that at times recalls a scaled down Massive Attack. An uneven mix caused the vocals, along with some ethereal synth sounds, to be buried beneath the low-end rumble of the sampled drums and bass for much of the set. Although this allowed room for the the guitar lines to add beautiful filigrees to synth and the roils of rhythm, creating gorgeous drones reminiscent of later-era Slowdive, for a band like Telepathe, hearing the vocals is crucial, and not once during the set could the vocals be heard really well. Even so, the lackluster sound did nothing to mar what was essentially a remarkable band playing some of the most inventively lovely music around.

After a sardonic wise crack, Los Angeles-based Abe Vigoda almost literally leapt into its set with a nervy energy. The act’s jumpy, jaunty noise rock meshes jangly guitars with surf pop that’s bent out of shape and ramped up to angular punk speed, only with its spiky edges smoothed to peek out and glisten amid the sweep of rapid distorted guitar chords. Think of it as beach music for what Douglas Coupland called an “accelerated culture.” Each member of the band played with an unbound joy and enthusiasm for the music they created together and proved that guitar rock can be reinvented if you’re creative enough to take it different places.

For Diplo’s set, a makeshift DJ booth, adorned with banks of bright LED lights, was erected on the dance floor. Without a great amount of fanfare, Diplo started things up with an ascending science fiction movie synth sound, followed by a hearty, “Denver!” from Diplo. From there, we were taken into a world where English isn’t the only language spoken and Western ideas of electronic and dance music are not taken for granted, even as the root of the sound. Hip-hop’s international hybrids and the interchange of musical ideas from around the globe were firmly on display during Diplo’s set, as he further cemented his reputation as one of the most gifted hip-hop club DJs going.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: This was essentially a warehouse show done in a bigger venue and I’m a fan of DIY shows. Random Detail: Some graffiti artist named “Dime” became my plus one. By the Way: Michael from Abe Vigoda and the rest of his band are good friends with former Denverite Josh Taylor (Friends Forever) out in Los Angeles.

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