Words by: Nick Boeka | Images by: Dave Vann
Younger Brother :: 05.17.08 :: 1015 Folsom :: San Francisco, CA
Few individuals have done more to shape and define an entire genre of music than Simon Posford. His reach and influence in the electronica world, goa and psychedelic trance (psytrance) in particular, is omnipresent. Posford has been an integral part of the U.K. Twisted Records label with partner Simon Holtom, and has been involved in numerous projects in roles ranging from engineer to DJ to guitarist. He typically goes by the stage name Hallucinogen when performing solo. Lately, he's been collaborating with Benji Vaughan (Prometheus) in livetronica act, Younger Brother. Making its American debut, Younger Brother lined up a few names from the U.S. livetronica scene to round out the band. Joining them for a four show tour in Colorado and California were Joe Russo (The Duo) on drums, Marc Brownstein (The Disco Biscuits) on bass and Tom Hamilton (Brothers Past, American Babies) on guitar.
Now, what made this evening so unique was the venue. Unlike the other theatre dates on the tour, this night took place at 1015 Folsom, a premier South of Market club in San Francisco. There are three floors with multiple rooms each, a huge main room which is setup typically for live bands, a large formal stage area, big speakers, lights, a wrap-around balcony and flanking bar areas. Though the show's handbill featured only four main acts, there were easily 15 dispersed amongst the rooms, each embodying a unique musical and visual theme. Before the main room even opened its doors at 11:30 p.m., I had spent nearly three hours wandering through the various beats, sounds and vibrations as the club sweated and shook with deep bass resonance.
The main room opened with a monster set by Conspirator. This "DJ" set had Aron Magner joining Disco Biscuits bandmate Brownstein, using his laptop and keyboards to trigger the beat tracks, samples and effects. The group performed without Omen, who is the typical third of this group. I enjoy this Bisco side project the most, and actually prefer it over the full band due to lack of vocals, deeper grooves and more house themes. Midway through their set, Hamilton emerged, jacked in and strummed along to a couple tunes. It felt like he was holding back, just warming his fingers up for later, even backing away from some solo opportunities offered by Magner.
At the tail end of the Conspirator set, Posford emerged to fire up his rig, and stepped into Hallucinogen's "Solstice," which dropped harder than your gut on a steep roller coaster ride. There wasn't anything more that could be done to prime the audience for the set that followed. Magner and Brownstein thanked the crowd and left the stage, while Posford was first joined by Vaughan, as they synced and sound checked their workstations, and then slowly the rest of the group joined.
Younger Brother :: 05.17 :: San Francisco, CA
I'd heard comments about "looseness" from friends who saw the first show in Boulder, but listening to just the first few bars I could tell that they must have practiced quite a bit in the off-week because they were right on point. Posford led the band through tracks from both YB albums, A Flock of Bleeps and The Last Days of Gravity, and never ceased to get the crowd lifted to higher and higher levels. "Happy Pills" and "Crumblenaut" launched the room into the sonic stratosphere. Russo was a monster behind the kit, adding his own samples via the trigger pad.
About halfway through the set, I heard this guy in front of me sum up the evening perfectly (despite the evening being far from over): "You know, if this was on the East Coast, people would be pointing at [Posford and Vaughan] going who are they? But here, they're looking at Brownie and Russo going 'Who the hell are these guys?" As a pioneer of trance music, Posford's name is worldwide, and it was obvious from the chatter in the venue that his name was the main draw for the evening.
Throughout the set, a fellow named Ruu would swagger onstage to provide the vocals scattered throughout the albums. Brownstein and Hamilton even took part, providing additional vocals to the anthem "I Am a Freak (I Am Unique)," which got the whole crowd screaming and freaking out to the deep groove of the middle section. As the set closed, I had a feeling that we had all been part of a special collaboration. Brownstein really seemed to hit his stride during this set and as Posford thanked the crowd, he looked noticeably giddy.
Younger Brother :: 05.17 :: San Francisco, CA
The crew began stripping the stage about 2:45 a.m. but the show was FAR from over. Vaughan emerged from the rear of the stage and took front and center to become Prometheus. The nasty-ness that dropped would have been absolutely perfect if it wasn't for the stagehands who kept unplugging and messing with equipment while he was spinning, causing intermittent dropouts, which inevitably led to the holy grail of club failures – audience silence. When a noticeably upset Prometheus was done mixing house and everything from The Beatles to Michael Jackson, the room slowly dwindled down to people who were committed to stay until they ushered us out.
Out patience was rewarded as Posford reemerged to play a Shpongle set, which really featured more of his Hallucinogen tracks than anything else. Shpongle is actually a collaboration with DJ Raja Ram, who was not present for any of this tour. Posford did, however, debut some newer material under the Shpongle name, and the long awaited forthcoming album seems nearer and nearer to release. All I know is that it is going to be the heat! When it was time for me to turn in the towel, Posford was still at it, and I could barely muster a nod in his direction when I stumbled out. There wasn't any piece of my expectations about this experience that weren't surpassed during this incredible night. Since this group was so well received on this tour, I am sure there will be more dates than just the Camp Bisco one-off to look forward to on this side of the pond.
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