If there was any complaint about RÃ¶yksopp when they came to town last year, it was that those guys just wanted you to dance. Sure, most of the duo’s recent output has been club-ready synthpop, but RÃ¶yksopp has more to offer than fetching beats and Queer Eye hairstyles. But you wouldn’t know it from the band’s live show; no, when people think electronic music, they think lights, dancing, and pills, and that’s what they were treated to. Even some of the downtempo tracks off Melody A.M. got a bpm boost, which was fun, but RÃ¶yksopp should have been above that.
Ratatat was above it Friday when they played to a capacity crowd at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre. Mike Stroud and Evan Mast made no dance-floor adjustments to appeal to a growing and diverse audience. Okay, admittedly it is easier for them, being more of a rock-fusion band, but the point remains: Ratatat is doing wonders for electronic music.
It’s not that the songs are life-changing; the New York duo played them pretty straightforwardly Friday night. Rather, it’s that everyone is getting into this stuff, not just hipsters and music geeks. There were plenty of those in the crowd, but the rest was composed of stoned hip-hop crossovers, post-emo college grads, drunken frat boys, thirty-something couples, you name it. The era of your friends calling anything with a synthesizer “techno” will soon be as laughable as the “rap is crap” movement.
And when I say people are getting into it, I mean they love it. The floor area was out of control, packed to the brim even before supporting band Dom took the stage. Between acts, there was enough leakage to ensure that there would be incessant shoving until Ratatat left the stage. The duo didn’t actually take the stage until approximately 11:10, so when Stroud and Mast showed up, explosions followed. The atmosphere in the front was akin to the atmosphere a mile back for Rage Against the Machine’s reunion tour — batshit insane. It was criminal there was even a seated section, but the balcony was showing love too.
Ratatat blasted through a couple of LP4 tracks to open, but it was more balanced from there, with only the first album getting the shaft (only “Seventeen Years”). There wasn’t a dull moment in the band’s calculated set; Ratatat knew when to keep the energy up and when to squeeze in a “Bruleé”/”Mahalo” one-two punch. And I don’t know how the band ever takes “Bare Feast” out of its sets. A more appropriate closer for a Ratatat show does not exist.
Mast, who handles most of the non-guitar instrumentation, felt like the leader of the band. You wouldn’t expect an instrumental duo to need a frontman, but he commanded the stage well. Both he and Stroud were either expressionless or comically focused throughout, which was part of the appeal. Even when they would periodically converge for some live drumming, their attitudes were less about trying to impress and more about relishing the energy in the theatre.
The visuals weren’t spectacular, but there were some clever moments. There were lots of birds, of course, this being the LP4 tour. Two of these birds were dressed in suits and playing strings. There was also plenty of mood lighting and smoke. If you like to be distracted by props at a concert, however, Ratatat is not for you.
But if Ratatat is for you, this is the tour to see. The duo is at the top of its game, and the tickets will only be getting more expensive from here; and the venues will only be getting bigger.
Grape Juice City