As time goes by, it's harder than ever to determine what makes a good electronic show from a bad one. Mainstream EDM DJs can make insatiable amounts of money from a pre-mixed "just press play" setlist that they only have to half-heartedly interact with in order to pull off. And with top notch equipment and plenty of digital help with transitions and beat matching and mixing, there's hardly even room for determining what's real and what's not any more. But let's take this moment to say thank you to those faithful few who continue to rock an electronic show with all the fervor and dedication of a show with live instruments, because only heaven knows how impactful it can be when the energy on stage meets the energy in the crowd and the synergy of both makes for one hell of a night. In case you weren't there, that's exactly what happened at the Moderat show Wednesday night. The supergroup, made up of German electronic gods Modeselektor and Apparat, threw the most kickass show the Neptune has seen in recent months, and shook the foundations of the building with bass and dance power. Together, the two Berlin pioneers have made functional dance music that is perhaps a bit too accessible to fit into either of their individual catalogues. But together as Moderat, they can jam without hesitation and throw an irresistible good time that only the Neptune got to experience. Together with a great opening set from Seattle's own Vox Mod, the night was ripe with shameless dancing and zero regard for those outside the building. Moderat came, they saw, and they conquered.
With a complex set of screens, projectors, monitors, and electronics, Moderat's setup was not one to be moved or set between bands. So though he sounded incredible, Seattle's Vox Mod was stuck behind a transparent screen, obscured from the front of the crowd. But visible obstruction was not a factor to Scot Porter. Not deterred one bit, he excitedly played through his set with energy and delivery, not disappointing one person in the crowd. Vox Mod's collection of sounds is an eclectic one. He covers all ground between 8 bit head-bobbing and drum n bass thrash. The choice of local opener was completely appropriate though - there is no other local act that could perhaps match the variety and power with which Moderat delivers. Scot himself was quite excited for the band's set, so naturally, his job as hype-man was filled perfectly. After a solid 45 minute set, Porter exited the stage and set up the house for Moderat with wonderful anticipation.
Moderat can and will deceive you. When they enter the stage, they are three pretty mellow dudes, waving to the stage and smiling politely before manning their stations and getting set to make some noise. But when they get comfortable and the lights go down and the trippy, three-dimensional graphics go up behind them, they become different people. The crowd in front of them could be completely absent - at that moment, in the middle of cuts like "A New Error" or "Bad Kingdom", they are completely in their own world. While the crowd dances voraciously, Apparat sings with passion and Modeselektor both bob side to side as they incite murderous beats and sounds that keep the crowd going until silence fills the air. At that point, of course, the empty space of sound fills with applause, screaming, and begging for more, which is met by humble smiles up on stage and more tracks being dropped.
Whatever you think of their studio album material, Moderat will exceed your expectations on stage. The three men onstage threw an act that most electronic fans would only consider doable as a pre-programmed endeavor. The sights and sounds and emotional waves felt through body and soul were incredible. It's hard to explain, considering the fact that every song played can be found on either of Moderat's studio albums. "Rusty Nails", "Seamonkey", "Versions", "Let In The Light", "This Time"... they are all there. But the live delivery makes Moderat a completely different beast. Here, we remember why these two acts are world-renowned as pioneers through the electronic genre, and why together, they are a dangerous combination. This was best seen in tracks like II cut "Milk", where 10 minutes of build allowed the three to do unthinkable things onstage, building a simple house beat into an unfathomable monster of a track. But perhaps the most memorable track of the night was the first album's cut "Nr. 22". On the album, the track builds to a climax, dropping a wonderfully catchy bass rhythm, then slowly backing out before emptying into the excellent "Out of Sight". But unchained by the restrictions of the studio album and free to do whatever they want, Moderat saw the reaction in the crowd to the first bass fill and decided to keep the vibe going as long as it would go. The result was an insanely fun 7 minute cut of the song, cutting out and building and exploding all with the energy of the crowd. It was here that those present realized something: they were in the presence of true heroes of the art. Electronic performers can be a dime a dozen nowadays, but the true artists like Moderat are priceless, and no one left the Neptune Theater without this understanding.
Moderat II is out in stores now.
KEXP premieres a new track from Seattle electronic project Vox Mod, off the forthcoming full-length Sense of Us.
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