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Live Review: Steve Lawler at Beta

Photo: Chad Fahnestock
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Steve Lawler and Audiofly October 18, 2008 Beta Better than: The first/last time I saw Steve Lawler

Dance music doesn’t need much to succeed. A steady beat, a killer bassline and something, anything, to serve as an occasional hook and you’re good to go. That’s not to say it’s easy – to the contrary, to make great music with such a limited palette is an impressive feat. Tonight, Steve Lawler -- and to a lesser degree the openers Audiofly – put on a clinic of how it’s done.

I got there during the last twenty mintues of Audiofly. From what I heard they were a good opener for Lawler. Percussion heavy, low-end focused, stripped down, dark house, peppered with salacious samples and a sexy groove.

Lawler took over and stripped it down even further. For the next hour and a half there was almost nothing happening but heavy, punishing beats, wobbly sub-bass propping up pumping, but usually fairly simple bass lines, thundering percussion and the odd off-the-wall sample thrown in and twisted up to keep things interesting. No melody, no syrupy string pads, no synthesizer sprinkles, just pure, focused ultra-potent low-end audio assault.

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That could have gotten old after a while, but Lawler managed to use subtle variations, frequent dynamic shifts and other subtle touches to keep it from degenerating into repetition. He did favor cheesy machine-gun snare builds a bit too much for my taste, but as far as indulgences go, it was a pretty minor transgression. It was the darkest, dingiest, druggiest and most hypnotic house music I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy in quite some time.

-- Cory Casciato

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Dark, dirty minimal house? Right up my alley, thanks! Random Detail: I stepped outside to catch my breath and get some air. While I was out there I overheard an attempted drug deal and an attempted romantic reconciliation. Both failed. By the Way: If I never see another drunk, attention-hungry girl going all faux lesbian to catch some dude’s eye, it’ll be too soon. They were out in force on Sunday night.

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