With no real low points at the first night of the Gold Rush festival, one performance that stood out was that of Drew Englander during his set as R E A L M A G I C. He was like the Pied Piper of dance and he got the crowd both inside and outside of Delite dancing with him. Largely because he lead by example in being excited by his own music, he transferred that spirit to the audience. He was utterly unafraid of looking like a dork, despite being a fine dancer -- and he made you feel like you were a pretty natural good dancer yourself.
Last night it didn't really matter if you could dance or not, because being "good" was less significant than just having a good time at the show. The way Englander conducted himself and went out into the crowd, inside and out, and danced with everyone without aggressively and desperately trying to get them to go along. He made you want to. Which seemed like the spirit of the whole event.
At The Camp Stage at Delite, Silver Antlers set up his array of effects and his guitar. The music began as a gossamer breeze of trailing guitar notes over a low frequency drone. The delicate filigrees of guitar Skyler Hitchcox wove into his loop at one point conjured images of dragonflies swarming and dispersing as though at play. People walking by on South Broadway, not realizing there was a music festival going on inside, peered in at the unexpected sounds with looks of puzzled curiosity.
Across three proper songs, Hitchcox blurred the line between guitar and synth sounds and then separated them again for a fusion of the electronic and the organic as he often created loops that he manipulated with the effects as though it were a new and unique instrument of the moment.
For The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact's set, it seemed as though as large a crowd assembled as was possible, given the small space inside and out (the front "porch" of the restaurant open to the elements and passersby). A single tone ebbed in quietly when the band started up, gradually joined by deep, melodic sounds of an origin indiscernible to anyone but the band. Carson Pelo eventually noodled in some impressionistic guitar strains with a composition like crystalline wind. Once a few layers of sound were established and looped, or continued at points, various members of the band manipulated those sounds in a free form manner that always seemed born of a telepathic consensus, a gestalt, between the four guys.
Who knows how much time had passed before Carson eased in a live vinyl sample of a song that sounded like the introduction music from The Silence of the Lambs. Or at least the music from the time Clarice Starling is about to be recruited from training -- some of that incidental music scored by Howard Shore. It blended in so naturally with the band's own music it crept up on you somehow. Of course, KCSP took these sounds and sampled them and subtly fed them back into the mix after manipulating the sound with pedals. For the second to last song, all four guys played guitar, with Tyler Pelo playing bass, and created the kind of thick, haunting cacophony that can only be compared to "Look At Me Go" by Swans, or the music from the most intense scenes in Antichrist. To close out, KCSP played its dreamy chill-out track, "Savage Fucking Garden."
CVLTS, not to be confused with Cults (though, likely not an accident, whoever was controlling the music on the P.A. played the other Cults as CVLTS was setting up), started off with a song where the guitar sounded like a parade of mammoths sounding off in unison while walking through a mountainous valley with the noises bouncing off the walls, creating natural echo and reverb. Or maybe it was the sound of whales in a rare moment of collective, unified music-making.
Later in the set, what looked like a Korg KAOSS Pad Quad was used to create a sound that was reminiscent of that high-pitched tone a jutting piece of metal on the outside of a flying vehicle make as it makes its way through the sky at over two hundred miles an hour. Often, CVLTS reminded one of My Bloody Valentine gone abstract and all but completely ambient, yet retaining a certain gritty and robust, but not overwhelming, sound.
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Later in the set, the synth players swirled together their sounds in a gorgeous mélange of melodic atmospherics while the guitarist struck a minimalist, jagged guitar sound that also shimmered in the slight delay that stretched out its sound ever so subtly. The repetition had an interesting character because the guitar sound never made the exact same noise and exhibited the same texture with each strum. Lyrically, there was some of that same repetition like some kind of Ezra Pound poem that suggests form in its rhythm. At the end, the sounds faded out like the tide, like the stars as the sun rises to outshine them in the sky. At the Mine Stage in The Hi-Dive, Candy Claws, and the projections gracing the foursome, chased away the mundane in a big way. This was the four-piece version of the band and it really worked to bring out the core of the band's songwriting. Dream pop was all but the creation of sonically imaginative guitar bands from twenty plus years ago. Candy Claws has reinvented that for the modern era. Somewhere between tasteful bass guitar notes bolstering the music and a drummer who uses a minimal set-up but plays more expressively than most percussionists, Candy Claws has a rhythm section that knows how to create a warmth and organic feel that allows for Ryan and Kay to explore the outer reaches of dreamland with their complimentary ethereal sounds -- vocally and in the instrumentation.
A high point was "Sun Arrow" with its whimsical yet deeply affecting interplay of melodies. Something about the song, especially live, draws you in and has a feeling similar to the first time you saw one of those great, classic Christmas claymation specials -- the wonder and magic of it. Ryan's synth part carries the song along but in the live version of the song, Kay's subtle and gorgeous guitar work shine and with her hunched forward playing while lost in this song, and others, and the unique sounds she created along with their attendant textures immediately put her in league with any of those dream pop guitarists of "old" in making an utterly entrancing and affecting sound in the context of a band with which that style of playing fits perfectly.
Drew Englander had the words "I'm You" on a white shirt he was wearing. Joining him for the performance were two female dancers, both wearing white face masks, one wearing a sparkly purple cape with a hood, the other black hood. Layering together a thick, dynamic low-end tone with bright synth programming and sequenced blips that accented the rhythm, Englander created what seemed like an endless number of dance songs that never seemed to really repeat ideas. The music sounded like what might have happened if '90s rave music had stayed steeped in live performance but without the druggy vibe of so much of it. With R E A L M A G I C, Englander plays his music like he assumes you're going to be into it as well and you are, and it's hard not to be. The whole first night closed with a set from Teen Daze. Which was a guy on stage at the Hi-Dive with a projection on him of what looked like footage from the arctic or in the desert but with all the colors changed to blue, white and shades of black. Musically it sounded akin to a mixture of vintage synth pop, electroclash and, at times, chilly IDM. Teen Daze at times had a sound like Chorus-era Erasure but entirely instrumental and more abstract without sounding detached.