Darkstar/Phaseone @ le poisson rouge 7.18.11

Photo via The Guardian

It seems that no matter how exciting the prospect of Darkstar's debut live performance in NYC was it would always be accompanied by the most metal gift of all: disappointment.

First concert announcement, yay! Then a cancellation, boo! New show announced for July, yay! Snail getting sick and not coming, boo! I go anyway, for both of us, yay! Stand outside for an hour and try to sell the extra ticket when the show is not sold out, boo! Meet someone new to hang with inside, yay! No one is biting and I'm nervous about how big the crowd is inside, boo! Small talk with (and initiated by) singer James Buttery, yay! Let my anxiety get to me, give up and go inside, boo! The set was short as heck, boo!

All the nervousness about the venue being full and being ready to hate people was in vain. I came downstairs to an empty floor, most people leaning against walls or sitting on couches in the perimeter. In the end, the crowd grew to about 1/3 of the capacity at most. Possibly hoping more people would come in, the 9 p.m. show started at 10. Opener Phaseone concocted some beats that I remember went well within a dream sequence where there was a party somewhere and people drove home in the dark riding on the chill of his conclusion. My new acquaintance Eddie was pretty psyched on him but one Swiss avant-garde electronic musician we met outside after the set, felt he was too much the amateur to be opening up for a band like Darkstar. I didn't mind it, didn't feel like I wanted him to finish as soon as possible so he was good enough.

Without a sound the elusive Brit trio came in from the darkness onto the stage, all in jackets more appropriate for mid-fall than the summer heat, prefacing their set with a continuous ominous thump. James Buttery softly cooed into a mic and played with his voice pushing buttons at his feet. Aidan Whalley and James Young remained silent, their attention focused on manipulating beats and twiddling knobs. 

The bare bones set was about 6 songs long of mostly somber jams including "Gold," "Two Chords," "Darkness" and a cover of Radiohead's "Videotape." Of course, this band would play the saddest song in the RH catalog. Refusing to check out videos online of past performances, this came as a total surprise. It was also the first time I've heard the track in a while, which we actively avoid in order to maintain composure while listening to In Rainbows, since we saw the band headline All Points West in 2008. I hoped I the waterworks wouldn't turn on in public as they always do. However, I was safe for as melancholy and soul wrenching James' voice can be, it lacks the Thom Yorke effect so I only got that tingling in the nose.

One song after that, it was over. Forty-five minutes. They said thank you and left the stage to be seen no more. I was confused and ultimately pretty bummed. I was dumbfounded. They surely have enough material, even if they had decided against cranking out their dubstep oldies, the whole of their debut North was enough for at least an hour-long headlining set. I wondered if they were discouraged by the small crowd or if that's just how they do their thing. Not used to headlining sets so short part of me felt kind of gyped. Frankly, if my jams "Dear Heartbeat" and "Aidy's Girl is a Computer" were in the setlist I wouldn't have cared so much about the length. Hopefully, there's a next time where those tracks are played and Snail can be there to experience it with me.


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