Tycho @ Crescent Ballroom | 9/2/12
To set the scene for this show, I should let you know I took some 25i-NBOMe. This research chemical is so new that it doesn't yet carry with it any scary taboos, let alone a nickname that makes it more sellable on the streets. Apparently, the guy I know who knows a guy isn't so good at knowing guys. What I thought was a particular ray of sunshine became this and here I was, chewing at two tabs at the bar of the Crescent Ballroom.
I instantly knew it was this 25i stuff I kept hearing about and not what I'd ordered because it tasted like I was sucking on a broken thermometer and the metallic flavor wouldn't leave my mouth. I ordered a drink while the Album Leaf were playing, already sending pleasant vibes down my direction and I absent mindfully spat the whole glob onto the bar. The bartender looked at me like I was a mutant, but I couldn't just let the tabs go to waste, so when she had her back turned, getting me my drinks, I picked the spitwad off the bar and threw it back in my mouth. The bartender saw and gave me a look of absolute disgust.
I can't vouch much for what this substance does, but I can say that I started to feel like the top of my skull was unscrewed so it could better feel the wavelengths of music shot toward me. There are many ways to enjoy music and this is certainly one of them. Don't judge me. I hesitate to even call this a drug, although it has been thoroughly banned by the federal government recently. They like to ban a lot of things that don't make them money before they know what they do, so ignore the Federal Analogue Act for a second and focus on the show.
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Tycho's second LP, Dive, is filled with oceanic metaphors and it's perfectly fitting. Like a wave, Tycho pulls you into and out of moods, lifting you up over and under horizons, and sliding you down with careful calculations and reductions for error. But seeing Tycho's first show in Phoenix, filtered through the Crescent's splendiferous sound system, brought new life to that tidepool-filled feeling. Maybe it was how full and realized it seemed compared to an MP3 or maybe it was just the drums sound so much more pure when they aren't sampled.
The ocean metaphor is perfect because where sands intersect with water is actually a violent, messy place in terms of geological years. Slow, infinite levels of destruction and reward, cycles of disintegration and rebirth and that's exactly what Tycho's music feels like.
Scott Hansen and crew played a consistent blend of classics and new favorites, melding his two projections together seamlessly. Dive was seen as an evolution, but held onto its predecessor Sunrise Projector so well it made sense as a larger step forward.
The projected video was as great as I imagined when I talked to Tycho's mastermind, Scott Hansen about his collaborations with director Charles Bergquist and it all followed that same procession, its own sort of evolution. Images of smoke to lava to rockslides cooling in the ocean to sand to beaches to girls lost in sand dunes and then on surfboards, swirled in crests, adrift in the sublime, sunbleached through green and blue filters.
And in my head, my own spectacle was on repeat. Rainbow pyramids launched off into space, burrowing into fractals, interspersed with crystal stalagmites shooting through the sky and blowing into pure light. After every song ended, it felt like I landed, like that first moment on an airplane when tire touches landing strip.
When Tycho finished, the crowd screamed and screamed. It was a notably quick set, but the audience had been enthralled from the start; they weren't giving up easily. It took a while for the yelling to produce Hansen, but he came back. Just himself. He started with an untitled song he told us was written a few weeks ago. After another song, the band joined him again and blew everyone away for a few more seconds. It was all anyone needed.
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There were photos and autographs and all that, but we didn't stick around. After all, it was barely 11 o'clock when the show ended -- the night was still young, so I spent it cruising up and down North Phoenix with the windows down, Dive blaring through the car speakers and the lights dotting the darkened suburban stretches were trailed into comets and supernovas. It was just like countless other nights I had spent listening to Tycho's music. And as much as it takes me to other places, it always reminds me of here. As much as that ocean imagery always works, for me, my surroundings have and always will seem Sonoran.
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Tycho with The Album Leaf at Crescent Ballroom The Crowd: As I only spoke to some kids with degrees in electrical engineering, I am biased that this whole crowd was nothing but geeks. So many funny t-shirts and people that really understand the technical aspect of synthesizers and whatzits. Many people after the show seemed in a daze and unable to express what they just felt. They tried, but whatever questions were thrown out were only returned with nodding. Did you feel that? Mhmmm... Overheard: [Shouted at the stage:] "Your music makes me feel really good inside!" [Shouted back:] Me too!