Beats Antique sold out Trees in Deep Ellum on Friday night, while on tour promoting their new album, A Thousand Faces- Act 1. I have purposely held off on watching any live videos of the band, since I was told the magic lies in their live performances, and wanted to rejoice in surprise.
By Eva Raggio
The show was fascinatingly dreamlike. Their shows are like a United Nations dance show: Made up of varying shades of world music, incredibly moving and clever stage production and the enthralling belly dancer Zoe Jakes.
Jakes emerged in her embellished costume and headpiece, like a tattooed Esmeralda, bewitching the audience with every movement of her histrionic dancing. It could easily become a cacophony, but instead, the lights, music, background videos and her dancing were all flawlessly synchronized. I could swear the place smelled of incense and mystery, too, but on second sniff I realized it was just weed.
Some well-prepared fans showed up in colorful costumes. It also appeared as though every talkative person in the metroplex showed up that night, given that the cafeteria-like chatter almost never diminished. How the stage show didn't hold the crowd at rapt attention I have no idea. There were hypnotic videos and dancers picking the noses on each other's masks; it was a show full of detail and surprise.
And then at the show's climax, a gigantic blow-up one-eyed monster appeared, and the chatter was finally inaudible through the collective roar from the crowd.
Jakes is like the ringleader to her circus of excellent musicians. Her dance movements often dictate the course of the melody, rather than the other way around. After appearing in a blown-up dress that completely lit up at the bottom, she brought up two large feather fans, and started doing a charming burlesque-like number.
The only band member to hold down the kaleidoscopic fort of costume changes and instrument substitutions, by remaining consistently on stage, was drummer "Sidecar Tommy" Cappel, who was celebrated with a 'Happy Birthday' sung to him by the band and audience towards the end of the show.
Beats Antique comprises him, Jakes, and David Satori, who alternates between playing the violin, a very whimsical xylophone and other instruments. The bass was so heavy I could feel my entire skeleton vibrating. It wasn't unpleasant, but it was still a very odd sensation.
As with any event this meticulously choreographed, the best is saved for last. It sounded like there was a marching band onstage when David Satori played the trumpet, as a song erupts in a manner so festive that although I have never been to one, I can only describe it as Eastern European circus music.
When the show was over, after a long but fascinating encore of endless percussion, Jakes goes outside, interacting with the fans, sending a couple of them upstairs with a member of her entourage because she's concerned they might get cold. She greets me warmly, and she and Satori talk to me about the tour.
She tells us that Austin fans are not as responsive as Dallas'. She and Satori both agree that in California they get the performance-art loving, costume-wearing "Wild California weirdos."
Satori's highlights of the tour so far have been what he considers as having had the great honors of watching New Orleans' noted Preservation Hall jazz band playing Beats Antique songs, then meeting The Cure and being complimented by Robert Smith. He tells me the name of the band was originally Antique Beats, which came to them during a bike ride, and they later reversed it "to sound more European."
Jakes has very eloquent opinions about pop stars who use belly dancing as part of their repertoires of random acts of sexiness. She doesn't dismiss it as gimmicky, instead appreciating artists like Shakira for "inspiring an interest in it."
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Still, she realizes some may view this appropriation as "robbing a culture of dignity," therefore, she says, artists "have a responsibility to not have a shallow representation, since it means a lot to people."
I skip off from the venue, with the wild imagery stuck in my mind. Beats Antique borrows from different culture's music, from several art forms, across different eras, and the result might have been the most original music show I've ever seen.