Anyone familiar with the big music releases of 2013 might have heard of a little French duo named Daft Punk dropping a popular album, Random Access Memories, in the late spring. Fast forward a little bit after that release and another duo by the name of Darkside has taken the entire album, flipped it on its head, and uploaded it to the internet for everyone’s listening pleasure. With this release, Darkside grabbed the attention of music aficionados around the world, myself included. Not too long after their release of a completely remixed RAM, their debut LP, Psychic, was released. That was when I vowed that I had to see this group live.
Imagine this: getting to the 9:30 Club so early that there are only about 30 people present, milling about at various proximities to the stage and on the balcony. There is loud jazz music blaring from the overhead speakers, a surprisingly fitting introduction for the band that is about to take the stage. As more time passes and the opening set performs, the venue fills up rapidly, with someone next to me announcing that the show had sold out only a few minutes prior. Then, the music goes off, the lights dim and out walk Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington, the two gentlemen that make up the experimental rock-infused electronic duo Darkside.
Both Jaar and Harrington have made names for themselves in the music scene, Jaar with a smattering of EPs and a critically acclaimed LP, and Harrington as a talented multi-instrumentalist and producer. With the two having met at Brown University and subsequently touring together (Harrington supported Jaar while promoting his debut album Space Is Only Noise), it came as no surprise that they would go on tour yet again, this time as collaborators, playing their most recent body of work. (As a long time Nicolas Jaar fan, this tour announcement came as the best news in the entire world.)
But I digress.
Jaar and Harrington took the stage, and suddenly everything was dark, save for what appeared to be a floodlight and eerie fog illuminating the silhouettes of everything on stage. They both took their places, Jaar on one side of the stage behind a computer and synthesizers and Harrington next to a guitar and more equipment. Their set opened with the haunting notes of “Golden Arrow,” eleven minutes and twenty seconds of sonic grooves, but from the very beginning, you could tell that the song was different. While the track itself is long, Darkside seemed to take no mind to extending it further, taking their time to carefully craft the builds, with Harrington on the guitar, making sounds I had never even heard before. They then transitioned seamlessly into “Freak Go, Home” and then into what is possibly their most uptempo song, “Paper Trails.” While the audience was already enraptured by the performance thus far, with this song, everyone got more excited than they had before. With its pulsating beat, Jaar’s sultry vocals, and Harrington’s general badassery on the guitar, everyone in the crowd found themselves dancing, something that was only made better by the breakdown Darkside played in the middle of the song. Jaar and Harrington moved seamlessly through most of the rest of the album, with a highlight of the set being when the entire audience began clapping along to the beat during “The Only Shrine I’ve Seen.”
Darkside closed with “Heart” and “Metatron,” to a crowd that only wanted more. Fortunately, the band came back on stage to perform an untitled encore, accompanied by their opener, High Water on the saxophone. For me, this was the most interesting part of the night, as the three musicians began by playing a rendition of “Golden Arrow” again, then transforming it into a completely different song altogether. The second half of their encore consisted of the most discordant and raw sounds of the night, sounding like something straight from the cosmos.
With this performance, Darkside proved that it does not take bombastic sounds to catch a crowd’s attention. They had full control of the audience from beginning to end and undoubtedly left many concertgoers wishing the show could go on forever.