Music

Live review: Battles @ the Bottom Lounge

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Taking bits and pieces from the Animal Collective, A Place To Bury Strangers, and a bit of nautical celesta for aesthetic purposes gives fans a pleasant feeling of familiarity when listening to the band known as Battles.
The Bottom Lounge can put on a show just right…the mood set in the murky hall has a sedating effect to the point where it’ll seep into your skin – the thrill of the lights, fancy and flickering on the stage. Two screens backdrop a stunning canary yellow drum set in between a bassist fiddling with a copious amount of cords and pedals splayed across the floor. Shifting from kneeling to standing position rapidly, as if genuflecting to the gods of music, he kept the rhythm tight.

On the other end was multi-instrumentalist and front man Ian William; he grins in the spotlight, dousing in pools of sweat with his guitar/keys combo. He is indeed multi-tasking, but the dripping hot neon sundaes displayed on two digital screens can trick the human eye. This is where the psychedelic effect starts to come in to play. It is about to become a whirlwind of confusion and bewilderment.

A cymbal, raised about four feet above the canary kit, stood like a flag atop a mountain of laptops, control surfaces and guitars flipped over the back of the front man. An ornate array of pedals covered the floor; warped sounds echo from a seemingly unmanned synthesizer somewhere within the mess of cables and amps. The crowd, buoyed up by the oscillating glow of swelling lights and a formidable aural presence despite the absent artists, was finally satiated when Battles took the stage.

Living up to their reputation of being a band you must see live, the instrumental-experimental rock band out of New York delivered a obdurate performance from the time they set foot on stage to the last moment of their encore. While there may be beauty in simplicity, Battles proved that complexity does not necessarily preclude perfection as they played each set flawlessly in a flurry of button punching and knob twisting that would impress any airline pilot.

Drummer John Stanier commanded a powerful stage presence, serving as the backbone of the band as he held the trio down with consistency and clock-tight snare hits. Guitarists Ian Williams and Dave Konopka followed his lead, but were in no way overpowered by the percussion. They cultivated a cacophony that ranged from perfect harmonics to transient dissonance.

Their theatrical antics onstage only amplified their professionalism—a decade of playing together has clearly left them with the collective timing of a drum machine. Their laser-like focus remained uninterrupted as Williams sweat his weight on stage. They played with a sustained energy—evidenced by Stanier’s button-up that went from peach-toned to blood orange from perspiration—the crowd caught up with him, hearts racing and feet shuffling. Unsure whether to dance frenetically or to hang their head down lazily seesawing it from side to side, truly playing in to the obscurity of it all. The fans are devoted to the trio, their demeanor on stage calms the crowd, who are taking solace in the frantic yet perfected performance. The band made a swift exit, loading the enormous greyhound of a tour bus and skidding off in front of the lounge as doting fans waved them off on their way.

Written in conjunction with Christopher Loeber. Photos by Rachel Angres and Christopher Loeber. See more pictures from Battles’ set on our Flickr page.