Speaking as a fan and partisan of the ol' electronic dance music, it was thrilling to see a sold-out Neumos in raving worship of Simian Mobile Disco's towering altar of modular synthesizers and strobe lights last night. And holy hell, let's talk about those strobes for a second! Neumos' in-house lighting guy briefed me on the improvements SMD's own guy had made to their rig since their last time through town, and it basically boiled down to smaller, more powerful lights, and lots more of them.
During one blinding flash among many, Decibel booker Sean Horton quipped, "You bring your sunglasses?" And in fact, this was the rare show that you could actually watch with your eyes closed and still see the light show playing through your eyelids. Of course, the occasion for all the flashy lights was SMD's bleeping electro and pulsing, hard-pounding techno, which the duo delivered in their usual inimitable style.
Live, Simian Mobile Disco operates around a table piled high with modular synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, mixers, and effects. They work facing each other, with their profile or sometimes their backs to the audience, reaching around to tweak knobs or plug and unplug patch cables. If this seems like an antisocial performance style, no matter, because SMD's sound and lights do all the work of lathering up the crowd for them. At one point, a girl appeared to be crowd-surfing while SMD's Jas Shaw shined a flashlight on a panel of synthesizer patchbays, looking like a repairman running the rave.
As is usual, they studded a set of mostly instrumental, synth-heavy techno with vocal hooks from their more electro-pop-flavored songs: "It's the Beat," "Audacity of Huge," and finally, before the first of several false endings and encores, their Beth Ditto production "Cruel Intentions."
They encored with (I think) "Tits and Acid" and then the slow-motion rave-up "I Believe," ending the show with a gradually decaying series of synth hits where a rock band might have gone out with a drum roll. I don't know how it happened or what it means, but I woke up this morning with my underpants on the outside of my pants, like a bad superhero costume. I think Simian Mobile Disco deserves much of the credit for that.