Hercules & Love Affair at Club Dada, 9/24/14

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Hercules and Love Affair With Nick Monaco and DJ Red Eye Club Dada, Dallas Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hercules & Love Affair, the product of Andy Butler and his ever-changing group of collaborators, no longer have the electro-disco pop sound that made such a bold impression on their self-titled 2008 debut album. Now touring on The Feast of The Broken Heart, a third album released this year, the sound is dirtier, mixing rough house and techno. "I wanted to leave organic instruments," explained Butler, in town last night to perform at Club Dada, "and embrace a big club sound with rough, tough techno house."

A brand new live incarnation of Hercules & Love Affair arrived in Dallas all the way back on Saturday, spent a few days rehearsing and kicked off their North American tour last night with a near-perfect, their first Dallas show in three years (not counting a DJ set in June).

With the crowd still finding its way into Club Dada DJ Red Eye started the show with an enjoyable '80s dance party set. Following Red Eye came San Francisco producer Nick Monaco. Touring with Hercules & Love Affair for a few dates in support of his brand new debut album, Mating Call, he managed to crash all sorts of different sounds together. His motto, it would seem, could well be, "More is more."

Monaco danced all the way through his set, somehow mixing dance pop, house, funk, soul, trip hop and jazz together, occasionally using whispery or robotic vocals for percussive effect. He ended his set with the song "Freak Flag," with the exhortation to "Let your freak flag fly!" echoing throughout. Interestingly, Monaco sells his own brand of lipstick called "Freak Flag" and all proceeds go to help pay for sex-change operations. "We'll have more in stock soon," he explained when asked after the show.

As for Hercules, Butler brought with him producer Mark Pistel, ridiculously talented vocalist Richard Kennedy and, returning after a five-year hiatus, Nomi Ruiz from the Brooklyn-based trio Jessica 6. The crowd mostly chatted amongst themselves during the first two acts, but screamed and danced all the way through the hour-long set from the headliners.

Butler and Pistel were in top form as DJs, but Ruiz and Kennedy stood in front, had a powerful stage presence, and easily held complete control over the crowd. For the first 20 minutes, Ruiz sang backup vocals while Kennedy sang lead, effortlessly hitting high and low notes with incredible timing. Ruiz more than held her own when she eventually sang lead on a few songs and the two harmonized flawlessly several times.

It was hard to believe this was the first set from a brand-new live band, but Butler explained that he has toured extensively with Nomi in the past and spent lots of time with Kennedy in the studio. "I like the spirit of everyone involved," Butler said. "I am so lucky to have worked with so many cool, special people and this crew is no different."

Working with so many different collaborators over the years has kept Hercules & Love Affair in a constant state of evolution and unpredictably. Butler wouldn't have it any other way. He muses: "There's a cult of personality, as I call it. A star or celebrity gets into a notion or fantasy of who they are. When you decide to be someone else, it can aggravate people."

Hercules & Love Affair may be Butler's de facto alter ego, and its music may have changed over the years. But based on Wednesday night, there's little doubting that Butler knows exactly who he is and where his music excels.

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