I had an odd feeling watching Bruno Pronsato at the VERA Project on Saturday, April 16, and about halfway through I figured out why. It was because the audience was (a) sober and (b) not standing around with their arms crossed. Obviously, VERA is an all-ages venue, but it wasn’t drunkenness I found missing from the equation. Pronsato’s set evoked the feel of the raves I attended during the early- to mid-’90s without actually sounding like them, and those parties were unavoidably marked by druggy abandon. Pronsato and the headliners, U.S.E. (whose female singers, Amanda Okonek and Carly Nicklaus, appeared on Pronsato’s terrific Silver Cities, which Seattle’s premier techno label, Orac, issued last year), inspired plenty of inhibition loss at the show, but there was also less of a chance someone was going to end up in the psych ward as a result.
Certainly, Pronsato’s music is rooted in the druggy atmosphere and sensory derangement that marks early house music: At one point, his iBook-generated set coughed up a sound bite, “I love the way you shake,” that effectively recapitulated the early Chicago acid-house of mid-’80s artists like Sleezy D and Phuture and labels like Trax and DJ International. But sonically, what Pronsato does is closer to modern labels like Cologne, Germany’s Perlon, which are as devoted to head fucking as body moving: Shortly after that vocal, a hard crackle slowly disintegrated over a bass line that bounded and wobbled so hard (and so subcutaneously—you felt it more than you heard it) that you’d have thought VERA’s floor was coming undone.
Pronsato’s set was at once remarkably comfortable and spacious. It began stark—warping, woofing, sharp-edged snares, and kicks with dry, cutting sproings and sizzles—and after a few minutes, he worked in some gonging, slowed-down bell tones. Bass lines growled under truncated sound bites (guitar notes that froze midpluck and then repeated, for example).
“I thought I’d change it up and make it more poppy,” Pronsato (real name: Steven Ford) told me about his live methodology a few days before the VERA appearance. “Being in an all-ages environment, kids aren’t stuck in one thing. People our age would be like, ‘I don’t want to hear this dark, minimal stuff when I’m here to see U.S.E.'”
Pronsato’s guesswork was correct. These kids were into it—most of them bobbing and a good number full on moving to Pronsato’s music, which is very playful despite its dark nature—way more so than plenty of techno, which can be the most po-faced of musics when it gets “serious.” So here’s a modest proposal: As invigorating as all-ages shows are for us full-fledged grown-ups (your cynicism sure drops through the floor when a bunch of 19-year-olds start a conga line, as happened twice during the headliners’ set), next time, I want to see Pronsato play clubs full of adult U.S.E. fans. And I want to see those adults dance their asses off.