Live Review: RL Grime with Lunice at Neptune Theater 1/22/15

Live Reviews
01/28/2015
Gerrit Feenstra
all photos by Dave Lichterman

The problem with cool stuff is there's always a process by which it becomes uncool. A handful of true artists perfect a craft and then an uncanny number of hackneyed copycats sample bits and pieces out of context and bastardize the whole thing to no end. This is maybe no better exemplified than with modern electronic music. The scene changes faster than any other on the market, and the pioneers of the scene are forced to evolve just as fast as the rising tide behind them if they want to survive. But they get crowded by posers, and worse yet, with the postmodern state of the Internet, it's hard for the public to tell the difference in the vacuum of Soundcloud or Spotify. So what is an artist to do in a crowded room full of fakers? Well, for some, the answer is seclusion - leaving the headlines and hoping your target market follows you and sticks with you even off to the side of things. For others like RL Grime, the answer isn't retreat. Rather, it's beating down the competition the old fashioned way, with a bigger stick, a louder bang, and a whole lot more "wow" factor than the next guy. But in the words of LeVar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it - just take a look at these photos. Thursday night, together with an equally explosive opening set from Montreal bass god Lunice, RL Grime flexed and the world shook. Night #2 of sold out shows at the Neptune theater, RL Grime left Seattle in shambles twice, and I guarantee it will be exactly the same way upon his next return.If you happen to play electronic shows and you feel like your stage presence is lacking, Lunice should be the first dude you look to. You may have heard of him from his atom-smashing work with Hudson Mohawke in TNGHT, but impeccable production is only half the game for Lunice. It doesn't matter if he's playing a room with perfect atmosphere or a show with the worst lighting of all time - Lunice will steal the spotlight. He comes on stage in all black with incense pouring out of a thurible as he walks slowly across the stage to his minimalist setup. People are whispering, giggling to stifle the discomfort because they fear the man they don't understand. Lunice takes his time - he waits for the crowd's full attention, hanging up his holy smoke and manning the trigger pad. He looks to the crowd once with a maniacal smile, and then it all goes off like wildfire. As the bass vibrates through the building, Lunice is the incarnate representation of the beat. He bounces and thrives like the waves of the crowd are keeping him afloat. Every track is mixed pristinely, every transition is flawless. And the energy just keeps pouring on, even when he breaks the hip-hop heavy front end of the set for a couple house tracks. Things end all too soon with TNGHT and samples of upcoming solo Lunice tracks (check "Can't Wait To" and "Who Dat" if you haven't already). But tonight, it's Lunice's turn to start the night, not end it, and he couldn't have done a better job.

Lunice:

Lunice

Lunice

Lunice

Lunice

Reading RL Grime's Resident Advisor profile piece, you get an picture of a man torn between two worlds. On one hand, Henry Steinway could probably do the predictable massive EDM festivals for another 10 years and make a killing - in fact, he's already done that more than practically anyone his age. But the art is in the details with RL Grime. It's a fact that is most eloquently shown in his own production. His first full length record was released last year on Wedidit, called Void, and completely void of any semblance of a ceiling. Over 12 tracks, Steinway covers so much territory its honestly terrifying. There are Aphex Twin influenced techno bangers like "Danger". There are hypnotic 2-step shapeshifting adventures like "Valhalla". There are half-time hip-hop burners like "Kingpin". There's even the full John Carpenter interlude "Let Go". Then there are songs like "Core" and "Monsoon", where Steinway exists all in a world of his own, where a multitude of genres all clang together in a syncopated, tribal display of electronic production excellence. Steinway knows that the competition is stiff and the only way to stay ahead of the rest is to do your research and execute every step with perfection. So far, his track record is showing pretty damn close to perfect.

RL Grime's DJ sets are a very natural extension of his production. His chosen tracks vary radically from minute to minute. What he chooses to mash together is uncanny for anyone but Steinway. Try Kanye's "Hold My Liquor" thrown over top of French house god Gesaffelstein's "Pursuit". Or if that doesn't suit your fancy, how about the Cruel Summer cut "Mercy" over Rustie's "Raptor", or A$AP Rocky's "Wild For The Night" sampled over Baauer's "Swoopin"? There's no point in Steinway's sets where things tread too much in one direction. When the EDM vibes start to crawl too close, he throws in "Drop It Like It's Hot" and the crowd breaks it down like nothing else. When the intensity reaches health-threatening levels, ILoveMakonnen's "Tuesday" drops and everybody chills out. Steinway's sensitivity to every single moment has him one step ahead of everyone in the room for the duration. Three turntables and a Pioneer mixer to his name, Steinway makes every moment count.

Two plus hours later, you don't even notice the time pass with RL Grime. He bids farewell and the people all glance around the Neptune, nothing but smiles from the floor to the packed out edge of the balcony. There are plenty in the room who couldn't name a single track - they just come for the experience. The lights, the sound, the crowds, the effect of of it all - there is an appeal. But beyond it all, there's only one apex to this whole thing: the music. And without RL Grime's endless precision and flexibility from the booth, it would be a different story. Towards the end of his set, Steinway rides the last wave of his set at a pinnacle into Void cut "Core". As the chorus impends on the crowd, raised arms go up to sing the single line chorus. The bass goes out - the crowd roars. "Who do the shit that I do?" It's a simple question, and when RL Grime is on stage, there's a simple answer: nobody.

RL Grime:

RL Grime

RL Grime

RL Grime

RL Grime

RL Grime

RL Grime

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