The ravers were out in full effect on September 15 at New York City’s Blender Theater, glow sticks and all. As the crowd slowly filed in throughout the early hours of the night, little could be seen on stage beyond a tangle of cords and monolithic towers of audio equipment. New York City electro-house heroes JDH and Dave P provided the sounds before and in between live acts, and a better deejay pair could not have been picked to hype the crowd.
The Invisible Conga People started off the night with a sparse, tense set of minimal synths and quiet keys under a soothing 4/4 electronic kick. Except for the occasional brandishing of a guitar in the forefront of the stage, the two members of the Invisible Conga People were content to let the music speak quietly for them. Sans vocals above a whisper or any overt melodic hooks, a wash of blue lights covered the crowd and left the performers largely incognito, both visually and aurally.
When Simian Mobile Disco went on, the energy level started high and stayed there. The steady build of opener “Sleep Deprivation” woke up anybody who was lulled into a nap by the Conga People, and a steady mix of tunes from Attack Decay Sustain Release, the band’s debut on Wichita, kept the energy high throughout.
That mysterious mass of sound equipment was tweaked every which way by the bookish duo that makes up Simian Mobile Disco, but the surrounding light show kept the crowd transfixed and let the wizards work their magic behind the curtain. The lights were reminiscent of giant summertime bug zappers, and they towered in a circle surrounding the performers while flashing red, white, and blue. Despite the slightly more intimate setting, it’s not a stretch to say these boys could give Daft Punk a run for their money in the visual department.
The energetic but short pop-friendly electro bangers that make up the band’s sound were blended together and reworked for the live performance, but behind the dazzling light show it was hard to tell how much of the sound was being manipulated live and how much was simply preprogrammed. Closing out the set with the slow-paced new-wave pop of “I Believe,” it seemed the show would end on a chilled-out note. Not so. The down-tempo swinging rhythm gave way to a feverish tempo increase and a grand finale light show that had the packed crowd in an uproar. Simian Mobile Disco succeeded in making a hard-to-pull-off live electronic show worth every penny, despite the possibility that James Shaw and James Ford may have been fooling us up there, surfing the Internet while their iPods played on.