Last Night: White Rainbow's R&B Side-Project Purple and Green Light Up a Dance Party at Cairo Gallery"/>
You'd be forgiven for not knowing how seriously to take the news that Adam Forkner (aka psych/ambient/noise/etc. act White Rainbow) had teamed up with a prodigious young R&B/soul singer for his new electro-funk side-project, Purple and Green. On paper, it reads like it could be a goof. But at Cairo last night, making their Seattle debut (and playing only their second full show ever), the duo of Forkner and Justin "J Green" Johnson lit up a serious dance party. And even though they were having a lot of fun with the performance, they were clearly committed to it.
Forkner, purple-shirted, hunched over a table cluttered with keyboards, pedals, mixers, a laptop, a Kaoss pad, and even an iPad on which he scratched a virtual record and (frequently) triggered an airhorn on an app made by (who else) Mad Decent. J Green stood to his side, mike in hand, singing and doing dance moves seductive enough to move an art gallery full of stiff-limbed indie kids into hands-in-the-air revelry. Of course, the music itself was also pretty persuasive.
More words and blurry photos after the jump.
The songs ranged from mid-tempo funks popping with programmed, digital-sounding slap bass to the full-on house anthem of "Right Here," with its old-school drum loop (specifically, Gaz's "Sing Sing" break if I'm not mistaken) and pounding piano chords. Hercules & Love Affair wish they'd written that track for their new album. In between, there were lite '80s drum grooves, open-ended synth psychedlia, and loopy Latin-percussion jams worthy of El Guincho. Forkner played keys, triggered the rhythm tracks, and manipulated J Green's vocals, adding delay or looping samples on the fly. At the set's peaks, he would send the songs into an almost-screaming psychedelic pitch, synths ping-ponging between speakers, noise and feedback and delay swelling ecstatically.
There was also a lot of downtime between songs as Forkner loaded up new batches of audio clips on his laptop, but that made room for much hilarious banter and even an inspired a cappella rendition of Shai's "If I Ever Fall in Love," which Forkner sampled and looped into gentle cacophony. "Sorry, man, I fucked up," Forkner said after one song. "You ain't supposed to tell them that," Green replied. "He's just playing with y'all," he told the crowd. "It's all part of the show." Later, Green proposed we get some linoleum out for break-dancing and started cataloguing break-dancing moves. "I was more into popping-and-locking," Forkner demurred. The man behind White Rainbow explained the history of hip-hop producer Mr. Collipark to the crowd. He asked, "Teddy Riley or Terry Riley--who wins?" Most artists don't give you such a succinct summation of their sound as that, but Forkner said that tension between the similarly named R&B auteur and avant-garde composer was their "conceptual band project . . . we should change our name to Terry and Teddy." On the very next track, as if to prove the point, Forkner contrasted Green's crooning with a polyphony of long-decaying synth pads.
Forkner played a new beat that he said was from New Year's Eve, and Green ad-libbed verses with ease, soulfully singing, "Don't pay no sales tax, won't see me pumping gas" (they're not tax cheats with chauffeurs, they're just from Portland). They closed with a ballad that sounded like it sampled Belle & Sebastian's "Electronic Renaissance" (which itself recreated the synth sound of New Order's "Procession"), Green clasping his mike in praying hands, eyes closed, as Forkner played the ambient fade-out.
Basically, Forkner is a genius musician/producer unafraid to follow his muse wherever it leads. This can make his output uneven--I don't love everything that he does--but it turns out he's more than up to the task of making soul, funk, and weirdo R&B tracks, and he's found an outstanding foil in J Green. The singer's echoing introduction to the show was right: "You gotta move closer--it's gonna be so sick-sick-sick-sick-sick." Purple and Green: best color combo band since Pink and Brown--believe.
The Crowd: Young folks getting their grooves on, plus one ex-Sub Pop president, Rich Jensen, whose presence at a show is always a good omen.
Personal Bias: Once in Olympia Adam Forkner played drums in my living room and the floor got covered with red corn syrup. Months later, the house burned down. Forkner had nothing to do with it.
BTW: Besides Terry and Teddy and Mr. Collipark, Forkner also shouted out Girl Talk, Fatboy Slim, and Black Flag ("total anarchy, total freedom!").