With a festival as genre specific as Decibel, it might be easy to assume that once you’ve seen a few shows, you’ve seen them all. But it stands as a testament to both the influence of electronic music and the diversity of Decibel’s showcases that from night to night the variety can feel endless. No more was that range of sound on display than with Thievery Corporation at the Sodo Showbox.
In fact, the first opener of the night, as any KEXP regulars will know, has made a living from providing always fresh, always diverse music to the world. That man is KEXP’s own Darek Mazzone, Polish born host of the Wo' Pop show. Of course, radio DJing and performance DJing are two very different beasts, but given Mazzone has played with the likes of R.E.M and Santana, his mastery of the latter should come as no surprise. That said, as Mazzone rolled through an eclectic mix of jams from every corner of the globe, he proved that he’s got one thing that transcends even his impressive skills: good taste.
Shaprece’s climb towards PNW notoriety is as steady as it is constant. From releasing her Molting EP on soundcloud in 2014, to her upcoming debut of new material at Benaroyal Hall with the Seattle Symphnoy later this October, every move the rising artist makes seems to take her boldly forward. This progression is true with regards to both her stature and her sound. Every time Shaprece takes a bigger stage, she’s found a way to incorporate more people, more sounds, and richer arrangements to her act. Decibel was no exception as she used three string players, a dj, and a backup singer to help mold her specific flavor of soul, symphonic, and electronic music. Keep an eye for her forthcoming album, COALS, later this year.
The legend of Thievery Corporation extends beyond their twenty-year history. It even surpasses their oddly frequent run-ins with more mainstream popular culture, such as their inclusion in the famed Garden State soundtrack or their collaborations with artists such as David Byrne and Wayne Coyne. In fact, what makes the D.C. production collective so essential, and such a fitting act to play Decibel’s last night on its largest stage, is the group’s influence not just on electronic music, but on all pop music. While sampling had already made it big with hip hop, and stand alone DJs had already gathered national attention, at their inception, nobody was able to feature lead singers while still keeping the production front and center like Thievery Corporation. Their ability to cycle through frontmen and women while keeping a core and distinctive sound paved the way for projects like Gorillaz, while simultaneously giving DJs the cred that now allows a Ryan Lewis to take half the namesake of Seattle’s largest music export in years.
Of course, none of that mattered to the near capacity crowd that gathered at the Showbox Sodo to take in Thievery Corporation’s iconic samplings of dub, jazz, reggae, Indian classical, bossa nova, and beyond. From Lebanese Blonde to The Richest Man in Babylon, the 9-piece touring band ripped through a catalogue of hits so deep that it felt like an embarrassment of riches. Or maybe that feeling of luxury was brought on by the insane depth of talent shared between the rotating cast of singers and rappers, artists like Ras Puma and Sleepy Wonder, who graciously shared stage time with each other despite each having the charisma to lead a solo show. Like the rest of the artists at Decibel, Thievery Corporation use the latest tools to push music in new directions while still drawing from a tradition of human creativity as old as time.
You'd be forgiven for asking why Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and the Felice Brothers were playing the Moore this September. They were on a brief, West Coast-only jaunt, none of them have records out this year, and because of it, there was barely any publicity for the show. But even for those who walked …
Avant-garde electronic music is probably the last thing people think of when they hear “dinner theater”, but that’s exactly what Decibel Festival attendees got if they were lucky enough to snag a spot at the sold out Optical 1 showcase. After fine dining courtesy of the famed Wild Ginger kitchen, a…