Last Night: Gang Gang Dance, Venus X and Shane at Dada

Gang Gang Dance, Venus X and Shane
September 28, 2011

Better than: not paying attention and missing something clever.

Sly is the word that best sums up last night's show at Dada, which saw two groups from New York City presenting a seamless two-hour-plus performance of avant-garde electronic and world music that was both powerful and challenging.

Walking into the club and seeing that the stage was already fully set for headliner Gang Gang Dance's set might have been a clue that things were going to be a little different. The stage was packed with keyboards, guitars and percussive instruments, and a projection screen backdrop. On the dance floor in front of the stage, a table was set with two DJ stations.

Starting the evening was DJ duo Venus X and Shane working the rigs on said floor table. Sampling and mixing a wide variety of samples into an electronic, somewhat discordant, Caribbean-influenced dub stew, the pair passed the mix back and forth.  

The first half of their set drew little reaction; the vast majority of the crowd was engaged with their cellphones. A woman standing three feet and squarely in front of Shane, filming the performance, seemed a bit out of place. 

Slowly, though, the crowd got sucked into the performance. Cellphones were put away, some dancing broke out, and the crowd was won over. 

Then, as Venus X and Shane had their way with a plucked banjo sample, something extremely cool and clever happened: Some of the members of Gang Gang Dance took to the stage, seemingly checking their equipment in preparation for their set. Drummer Jesse Lee then joined into the DJs musical blend, adding a new drive and dimension to the mix. Keyboardist Brian DeGraw soon followed suit, adding yet another layer to the mix which by now was very danceable. Guitarist Josh Diamond and the bass player joined in next, and it became hard to tell where one act ended and the other began. This seamless transition was completed as vocalist and percussionist Lizzie Bougatsos took the stage and the light show accompanying Gang Gang Dance's set began. 

It was one of the slickest handoffs between acts that you'll ever see.

With Gang Gang Dance now fully in control of the P.A., Bougatsos, dressed American Apparel ad-ready, cut a compelling figure as she added percussive flourishes to the band's already tribal sounds. Taking the microphone and singing her Eastern-influenced and pitch-shifted vocals, the music transcended genres. But the respectable crowd reacted appropriately, dancing and swaying and smiling as one song blended into the next.

The set list was a bit impossible to capture -- the songs blended together, albeit in a good, intoxicating way -- but leaned heavily on the recently released Eye Contact. Standout tracks "Glass Jar" (the epic opening track) and "Adult Goth" were mesmerizing.

After 80 minutes of delivering music non-stop, the band then finally started to wind down. Though the crowd had thinned a bit, everyone seemed satisfied they'd seen a tour de force performance.

Critics Notebook
Personal Bias:
I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of sludgy, discordant music. For the first 20 minutes or so of Venus X and Shane's performance, I was less than enthralled. But they sucked me in and I was fully engaged by what became an extremely clever performance.

Random Note: Too bad for the people that showed too late to see the transition from act one to act two. It really was something very clever to witness and a lesson to people that blow off a show opener by default.

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