Booka Shade at 9:30, March 25

Last night, I left work and met up with Alan for a night of awesome. I got to the U Street metro, waited for Alan’s lazy ass to make it to the station (his excuse? “I walked from Dupont”! Jerk.)

We headed to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a spot that neither of us had actually ever been to!

I just noticed we didn't take this exact route, since we were walking.  Whatever, you get the idea.

I just noticed we didn't take this exact route, since we were walking. Whatever, you get the idea.

Ben’s was amazing.  It was cheap, it was full of wonderful fat and other bad things, and it was tasty.  Though my stomach wasn’t feeling it the next day…hooboy.

We kept walking to the 9:30 club, but it turned out that the doors didn’t open until 7:00.  And Booka Shade wasn’t on until 9:30 (I’m guessing that’s why it’s called 9:30…hopefully I remember this for the future).  We stopped at a nearby bar and had a beer while listening to Ethopian/Eritrean music and television.  Oh how I wish I understood what was going on…it really seemed quite interesting.  The waitress gave us a funny look when we walked in, probably because we’re both white as hell and clearly didn’t speak a word of Amharic (though I swear we learned a little bit in World of Language…Alan thinks otherwise).

Anyhoo, we went in around 7:15 and promptly realized that we were the first ones there.  We got some (much more expensive beers) from the bar inside ($16 for a Guinness and a Bud Light?!) and sat downstairs in the chill room for a while.  At around 8:15, we heard noise upstairs.  It was the opener, RNS (information is nowhere to be found on these guys however).  They were kind of a typical House/straight Techno group, nothing really spectacular.  The fact that one of them kept throwing in such…passé noises and themes (“woop woop”, “make some noiiiise, DEE CEE”, etc) was a bit irritating, but at least it was music.

Note: I’m being somewhat nicer that the DJ working the house that night.  Then again, I don’t know much about this kind of music so I’m not a good person to ask.

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All I can think is: "Oh man, if this crowd doesn't get pumped, I'm going to be PISSED. I should yell 'MAKE SOME NOIZE DC!!!!', that'll help."

I think you can tell you’re not doing well with the crowd, when the next group’s backdrop comes up…before you’re done.

Time to go!

Guys...time to go...

I felt sorry for them because the crowd was not feeling much of what they were giving out.  As soon as they finished, most folks left the bars, pushed up to the front, and got good spots for the main act…anyway, then the stage lights dimmed, Arno and Walter made it onto the stage, and the show started.

Of course…not at 9:30…at around 9:59.  Change the name of the club, ya bastards.

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Oh, it's time.

Booka Shade was AMAZING.  Their set only lasted for about an hour and a half, but even with the hours of waiting beforehand, it was so worth it.  There was so much energy on stage, and it really flowed over into the crowd.  From a technical standpoint, it was the most aurally and visually stimulating show I’ve been to – the lights weren’t tired and overused, they really were tuned to go with the music.  The music was the songs I’ve come to love over the past 8 or 9 months, but with a live flair to it that I wish I could have recorded.  The enthusiasm coming from Arno and Walter really made an effect too – Arno (the drummer) was especially enthusiastic and clearly amped up by the crowd.  (He did an interview recently where he noted that “a lot of acts in the electronic scene who say they play live look like they’re checking their e-mails.”)  Walter (synth) was pretty excited too, but I was a bit further from him, so it was hard to get good shots of him going crazy.  Not quite as crazy as Flake from Rammstein, but he was up there.

They played a number of songs from their new album (The Sun and the Neon Light).  Some of the more famous ones, like Charlotte, Outskirts, and In White Rooms really got the crowd moving; jumping around, screaming…it was insanity.  At one point during In White Rooms, Arno told the crowd to “sing along!” …to which the expected response was apparently “ba ba ba dum dum baa!” over and over…it’s not a song with words so…yeah.  It worked, don’t question it.

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We play encore, ja?

We play encore, ja? Seriously, I swear a guy almost died when he threw the drumsticks at the end. At least 4 people fell over trying to grab it; I'm surprised no-one was hurt!

Get back on that stage.

Get back on that stage.

I guess I expected….well, I’m not sure what I was expecting.  Some of their stuff is very chill – as they put it, “home listening” – while some is very in-your-face.  They played the in-your-face for the crowd, of course; I was worried they might have a chill track and ruin the vibe, but clearly they’re professionals.

On that note, I should say one thing about the crowd.  For the past couple of concerts I’ve been to (excluding Lollapalooza, because there were so many bands/scenes there), there’s been some sense of “family”, and at least a “kind” of person you’d expect to see there.

As well as the kind of people you wouldn’t expect to see there.

For example, you wouldn’t expect to see a preppie at VNV Nation, nor would you expect to see a goth at Iron Maiden (at least not all goth’d up).  However, that night there were all manner of people there – preppies, goths, hipsters, metalheads, and even some deadheads; all clearly dressed as such (Alan and I remarked on the guys ahead of us, who were in Polo sweaters and dress shirts).

And then I guess…Alan and myself, whatever we fit in.

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He didn't judge people for being who they are. Oh, Arno.

It was a great night.  So energetic, I walked out of there in such a good mood (despite being gouged on those beers).

I would go again tomorrow.  It’s funny – I’m generally not one to see a movie/show/what-have-you again soon after seeing it for the first time, but the show was so full of energy, and the crowd seemed to really be into it, that I’d love to experience it again.  If they’re coming to town sometime, blow the money on a ticket and GO.

Also, the BBC has a pretty good (though short) review of the CD.  Also worth the purchase.

~Chris

EDIT: Finally uploaded the videos! Click the HQ button when they start to get a better version.

This one’s “Body Language” (from Movements), but mixed with some of “Cha!” (from their first album, Memento):

This is Karma Car, from The Sun and the Neon Light:

Finally, this is…something. I have no idea which song this is, and it’s a very short clip…but Arno is going nucking futs on those drums. If nothing else convinces you that you should see these guys, this should be the clincher:

I also have a shot of the concert ending – you can see our friends in the Polo sweaters, as well as everyone diving for the drumstick at the end:

Damnit. Next time I’m just recording the whole thing.

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