Wham Bam Thank You in California

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  • The music nerds were out in full force in Los Angeles at the Wham Bam Thank You unofficial afterhours of the NAMM Show, whose attendees came by the droves for the future technology showcase and following party presented by Friendly Integration, Droid Behavior and Electronic Creatives. This was no run-of-the-mill weekend evening, and this was no standard venue. Rather we gathered at the Downtown Independent Theater of Brainfeeder Sessions fame, with three areas of music and a sushi and wine-filled VIP lounge, presided over by representatives of Livid, Ableton and Native Instruments. I arrived at 10 PM shortly after the two-hour music technology discussion and panel with Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music. Out in the lobby DJ Gov was livening the night next to the wide front windows, with passerby gooning in on the show and wondering what the hell all those boxes of lights and knobs were for. Skipping the popcorn but grabbing a Red Stripe, I headed into the main theater where the music panel was ending. Soon Laura Escudé was playing sweeping sounds to rounded beats with her electric violin, as reds and blues and purples ran across the giant screen behind her. Climbing to the roof I was happy to see another performance area set up and Steve Nalepa toying with a keyboard to make delightful sounds. The heat lamps were blazing in the frigid sixty-degree LA winter weather as was the crowd, the dank aroma of West Coast weed rising up plume-like into the city lights above. A whole smorgasbord of electronic equipment was set up on several small round tables, and it seemed that every time I hit the roof someone new was playing wandering tracks to match the undulating visuals. Back in the main theater, Deru was bouncing and dancing as he delivered his beats. The sound was pristine and the energy was high, but there was only one problem: no dance floor. Throughout the night the crowd danced up the sides of the theater, proving that you can take the kids away from the dance floor, but you can't take the dance floor out of the kids. Described by a friend as a "God Among Men," Richard Devine's mind-fucking IDM was a welcome diversion for those who prefer their music less straightforward and more maniacally multi-strata, processed by a master sound designer. This is the music that computers sing to each other when they are trying to get laid. Out in the lobby Moldover was playing an interesting magical box along with a guitar, a contraption he had invented and explained thusly: "I'm trying to make better instruments for playing computers," which seemed to be the theme of the night. Back in the main theater John Tejada was finishing up a rousing set and the impromptu dance floor was spreading, growing tentacles up the aisles and worming all the way back to the entrance. By the time Acid Circus took to the decks, it was getting downright wild in there, with the relentless aural penetration known as techno pummeling our brains as the wacked-out visuals pulled them up again. It is a unique experience to sink yourself into a seat high in the rows of a shadowy movie theater as pounding techno is shoved into your ears. Being unable to dance, your body processes the incoming blast of sensory stimulation in surprisingly random ways—by laughing or screaming, for example. Some people just sit and twitch. The venue's size and wandering nature with staircases, back doors and an open roof meant that the crowd's energy could swirl about freely and there was room to romp, perfect for party nomads who feel a little stagnant at places with just one stage. The deep recesses of the cavernous theater matched the dark techno of the Vargas brothers, as the young couple groping each other madly in the back row surely agreed.