Battles Return Home to Music Hall of Williamsburg with a Dance PartyMay 27th, 2016
Battles – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 26, 2016
It was a sort of homecoming last night for Battles, performing on the same stage where they’d played their first show more than 13 years ago. Sure, there was room for some nostalgia, but, as these things usually go, it was more of an excuse for a party—and for the sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd, an all-out dance party is what they got. The room was properly vibed with an ethereal opening set from Steve Moore, whose nebulous synth creations hummed beneath electric blues and purples. Between sets, the stage was arranged for Battles, whose unique setup seemed to be part of the show, almost like they would perform in a zero-gravity environment with keyboards facing upward and a cymbal hoisted up several feet in the air, as if ready to take flight. And let’s talk about that cymbal for a second: As it was lifted up above the crowd, everyone in the audience raised their own cheer, hailing the flag of the conquering cosmonauts.
When Battles took the stage, the gravity seemed to return, looping guitar melodies fluttered under yellow lights as everyone’s feet found their place on the floor staking out room for the boogie-down about to begin. If their studio tracks seem ready-made for video game and commercial soundtracks and remixed remixes, played live, the material is another beast. Guitars and synth held off the relentless drumming for only so long, technical savvy meeting emotional plateaus. “Ice Cream” was a chaotic mess of frenzied drumming and loose electro-melodies but seemed to kick off the fun in earnest. Kinetic energy was the name of the game: Ian Williams and Dave Konopka moving up and down between instruments—guitars, bass, keys—and knobs, building tangible sonic structures out of loosely associated bits while John Stanier knew exactly when to aim high for that cymbal.
Longtime Battles fans were likely aware when one song ended and another began, material coming from both their original, experimental EP releases and recent dance-ready albums, but it didn’t seem to matter any more that it mattered that your neighbors kept joyously bumping into you as they tried to keep up with the ever-shifting rhythms. After several nonstop suites of music, the room regained that which-way-is-up, zero-G feel before eventually righting itself when the show ended in one last flurry of modern-day disco dancing. —A. Stein | @Neddyo