Today we celebrate Martin L. Gore of Depeche Mode’s 53rd birthday! Wowee!
Any excuse to honor this man, really. As the chief songwriter of the first synth band to bring electronic music onto the global stage (and 30 years on still selling out arenas worldwide), all the while having managed to avoid pretension and all other forms of musician douchebaggery, Martin deserves all his cake and to eat it wherever he likes.
Happy birthday, Mr. Gore. We totally fucking love you!
Here’s one of his signature songs, “Home.” 1998 was a bit of a weird time because lead singer Dave Gahan had just gotten out of rehab, but Martin sounds great and everyone’s all better now. Enjoy!
For a company that specializes in laying your ass out in outrageously comfortable hammocks, Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) knows a lot about parties. The festivities at Highland Brewing last Friday proved that.
As part of Highland’s (apparently months-long) 20th anniversary celebration, the brewery and ENO teamed up to host the July 11-12 events, parties to punctuate Night Flight, a four-mile race that benefits the Asheville Parks & Greenways Foundation. Now, I don’t know about any of that because I don’t run unless it’s to catch a plane or a concert, but yeah, I’m always down for hammocks + drinks + music. So when I pulled into the parking lot and the sprawling ENO Lotus Lounge unveiled itself before me, I knew I was exactly where I belonged.
The grassy area behind the brewery is just pleasant as can be. There’s an outdoor bar on one end of the field serving a handful of choice Highland beers, but silly Sally that I am, I go for the faceless white wine. The Lotus Lounge stretches its petals out, hammocks of every color strung between them; the kids dart under and around them like ants disturbed from their magnetic march, crawling over each other to snag any available part of parachute material as if it were all covered in honey. Anyone and everyone I want to see in this moment is here. I smoke mad cigs in processing how lovely it all is; the midsummer air is still thick and hot as the sun slips toward the horizon. A forest surrounds us.
Of course, my attention quickly falls on the guy in the DJ booth at the center of the lotus: local producer Marley Carroll. His familiar dark blond head bobs up and down to his beat, which for the time being is not much more than a general funk/pop playlist to please the masses. But I’m excited for what’s to come because I’ve just recently seen him at the Asheville Music Hall 4th of July show. And in combination with fellow locals BomBassic and Canadian producer Elaquent, it’s the hottest Asheville electronic show I’ve attended maybe ever.
As the night wears on and the kids exhaust themselves and their parents, Marley’s set moves deeper into his true style. I am posted under a lotus petal in front of him, dancing madly in the psychedelic lights, meeting his eyes from time to time because, I admit, I am way turned on. He begins to peel off originals and remixes, his transitions seamless, his (literally award-winning) scratching expertly sensitive.
Marley’s flawless fusion of heavy house beats and minimal, liquefied glitch makes his particular sound remarkably original and lush. Densely-packed layers of sound operate off one another, some stomping, some tapping, some swimming in open water. My body moves all the while, celebrating every molecule of this moment with ultimate conviction.
So, I just bought his album Sings. You can look forward to that review because it’s, oh, only blowing me away.
[Editor’s note: Okay, there’s a lot I have to say about why Backstage Sass has been gone for three months and now looks like total shit all over again, but suffice it to say that GoDaddy is a sleazy bag of dicks. We’ll get to that later. Right now, I just want to talk about Beck because that's all that really matters.]
“Oh god, I’m so sorry,” I say as I make a poor attempt at soaking up with my bare hand the champagne I’ve just spilled on the gentleman sitting by the aisle I’ve just tripped in. I’m prepared to face the reality of my more-than-slight intoxication when he looks up at me with a pair of innocent, sparkly blue eyes, and I know he is genuine when he says it’s totally fine. We’re vibing on the same level of excitement for the show that makes us untouchable. I leave him and his wife–who’s looking on with a mixture of amusement and disgust–with my sincere apologies and proceed to my seat, laughing and weeping inside all the way.
Somehow it had slipped my mind completely that Beck was coming to Asheville on July 12, so in a mad dash to procure a ticket two days earlier, I Craigslist whored it all the way up. I contacted about 10 people with seats in the orchestra, prepared to pay upwards of $100 to see Beck’s sweat (hey, that kind of thing is important to me), but in the end I wound up in the next section back, mezzanine center, ultimately a lovely spot for a reasonable price.
I’m sitting next to David and John, two guys from way the fuck out on some mountain east of here, and they’re laughing at the spill I just took on that guy. David is startlingly attractive in a conventional way and a big Pearl Jam fan, so I know this will be better than sitting next to that crisp-shirted douchehole on my recent flight to Boston.
“Did you see the opener?” I ask, referring to The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Sean Lennon’s band. They did while I missed it completely, having peeked in upon arrival but figuring there was still time to get a drink before catching the bulk of their set. I was wrong; they’d left the stage by the time I returned.
What I heard when I entered the dark theater didn’t grab me, but I admit I haven’t cared enough to familiarize myself with their music at all. Still, to witness Sean Lennon onstage, his long, frizzy black hair covering his face Yoko-style as he picks dangerously at an electric guitar, is noteworthy. The GOASTT has some weirdo music videos and will obviously never achieve great recognition while poor Sean will always be compared to the incomparable legacy of his father, but what else is a guy supposed to do when he wants to play music and has to live with John Lennon’s exact face? That’s gotta be rough.
Finally the house lights dim again, the full auditorium erupts in applause, and suddenly Beck’s band is coming in swinging with “Devil’s Haircut.” The sound is fuzzy in the Thomas Wolfe, but my virgin sight on the one and only Beck Hansen, grooving across the stage looking like a hip Amish preacher, makes up for it.
There is something to be said for seeing someone live who’s only existed to you via stereo for the last 20 years. The familiarity of a song I’ve known since childhood juxtaposed with the space pop of something like “Gamma Ray” and psycho-geometrical stage visuals threatens to overwhelm me, but I am reminded of the earthliness of this moment: Beck’s deep, dense voice that has rapped, screamed, crooned and bled into me over the years comforts me, and I invite myself to exist alongside him in this moment.
Most of what’s going on lyrically is indiscernible, but everyone knows what to do during the choruses of the thunderstorm hits like “The New Pollution” and “Loser,” to which he adds entire verses and/or has just forgotten the original wacko words. Fuckin works for me.
Generally, the setlist pleases the hell out of me, my darlings; I was unsure how it would be mixed for this tour, the lushness and sentiment of his latest album Morning Phase more comparable to Sea Change than Midnite Vultures. And while he has performed some seriously mellow sets, the man knows how to throw a party, and electro hits from across the board appropriately support the more emotionally lucid songs like“Lost Cause” and this year’s mushroom-trip meditation “Wave.” I can’t for the life of me understand what is wrong with all the people who choose “The Golden Age” to go to the bathroom. I could die right here in my own arms.
The sold-out auditorium has been beautifully responsive throughout the whole show, but the buzz seems to get down to the molecular level as we approach the end. “Girl” and “E-Pro” open up a new plane of mega-funness, and the only thing that separates the main set from the encore is the head-scratching application of caution tape across the stage and Beck’s inquiry as to “what kind of laws [we] like to defy” here in Asheville. Forget pot, public drunkenness, and acute civil disobedience; the answer is of course SEXX LAWS!
Beck channels his hilarious inner James Brown and Al Green with “Debra” after that and then closes it out with “Where It’s At.” Sean Lennon even comes back to play tambourine, the ol’ sport. Then, as if waking from a dream, the transition from 2500 voices shouting “I got two turntables and a microphone” into everyone-getting-the-fuck-out is seamless. These guys are pros.
If I hadn’t continued to hang out with my seat-neighbors David and John, I would have pulled my usual old school groupie shit and gone around back to try to intercept the man himself. I didn’t even CHECK OUT the situation; tour bus or black car? But honestly, I would have been too late anyway. Everyone knows you have to work that shit out during soundcheck.
Dig the setlist here
Songs I Wouldn’t Kick Out of Bed: Nicotine & Gravy, Mixed Bizness, Novacane, Nobody’s Fault But My Own (they didn’t play ANYTHING from Mutations! Ack!)
Random celeb sighting: Saw Charlie Day in a drink line. You know, this guy.