Words by: Colleen Liebig | Images by: Clay Slavely
Ott/Sci Fi/Agobi Project/DJ Ginza :: 03.14.09 :: Hookah Joe's/Nashwa :: Asheville, NC
Nestled in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina exists a rapidly hatching electronic music scene that is fortunately bringing several regional artists out of the woodwork to aid in developing a new era of Asheville's live music culture. A microcosm of this movement happened on Friday, March 14.
|Sci Fi :: 03.14 :: Asheville, NC|
The event took place at two connected venues, Hookah Joe's and the newly opened Nashwa. The link between these two hot spots enabled consistent live performances for eight hours. Club Nashwa is adorned with an Eastern culture tone, while its neighboring venue is set up as a comfortable lounge environment to enjoy hookahs and live music simultaneously.
To complement Ott's debut show in Asheville, Coma Gun Music chose to showcase some of the best regional talent, including Sci Fi, DJ Ginza, Agobi Project and Medesin. A local act relatively fresh to the live electronic music scene, Agobi Project started the night off with an improvisational set as people took a break from their hookahs and transitioned into dance mode. As a trio, the band formulates sounds that can be matched to those of a five or six-piece ensemble by using programs and electronic instruments. They are sure to stay on an incline in the years to come as AP has recently had opportunities to share the stage with members of Lotus, Eliot Lipp, Toubab Krewe and Sci Fi, and participated in Asheville's recent electronica event, Tron–A-Thon.
The striking sounds of Sci Fi's keyboardist Tyler Simmons exercising a range of unique electro-sounds on his Moog Little Phatty, quickly shifted everyone's attention to the stage next door at Nashwa following AP's set. With a hotbed of thriving, eclectic music in Asheville, home to several national touring acts, it is not unusual for other local bands to come out to shows like this one. Members of Toubab Krewe and Telepath were among the guests in the VIP area. Sounds of a spaceship getting ready for take off mystified the newcomers and electrified the fans, as electronic jazz trio Sci Fi launched into their new track "Neon Ion." They followed up with "10:01," another track off their new album entitled Sci Fi Live, which will be released in May. The trio continued with a classic crowd favorite, "Save the Queen," followed by "Save the Queen Pt. 2," an extended version, which will also be on their new album. Sci Fi is known for their malleability and improvisation, thus the essence of their sound is best represented live.
|DJ Ginza :: 03.14 :: Asheville, NC|
Next, DJ Ginza threw down an experimental set as he tuned into the collective conscious of the crowd. It was a combination of a live PA set and a DJ mix. Opening the set with "Jonah and the Whale," a track off his new album, Metamorph, available in May, his original reggae and dub-step mix instantly got feet moving. Building up his focus on heavy basslines, the crowd let out an applause that illuminated the rattling room and penetrating subs. Off to the side, Ott danced onstage while fiddling around with his equipment in preparation for his set, which was to follow. Mid-set, Ginza changed up the vibe with more complex breakbeat infused patterns. Transitioning from the ultra-glitchy beats to a medium vibe, "Cliff" concluded the set with a jazzy, hip-hop, café lounge tone. Conscious of each track's intensity, Ginza moved the crowd through different levels of this electronic journey from world music to down-tempo electronica to intricate breakbeats and heavy electronic music with elements of reggae, dub and hip-hop.
Minutes after the previous set, Ott gracefully took the stage alongside the DJ booth and was greeted with a loud cheer. Ott's sweet, melodic style captured the packed room, excited for his Asheville live debut. Now 1:00 a.m., the club was at full capacity as people had trickled in from cities all over the Southeast region. "We were amazed at how many tickets were purchased on-line that indicated cities ranging from Athens, Boone, Wilmington, Columbia, Richmond and other Virginia/West Virginia cities," stated organizer Joel Stout. Ott had traveled on an extended tour throughout the country with Chris Richards, the founder of Origins Music, an Oregon-based promotional company/record label. His 2009 tour was in support of his latest album and unreleased tracks, which the Asheville crowd took to immediately despite the fact that a large percentage of them were hearing Ott live for the first time.
|Ott :: 03.14 :: Asheville, NC|
Before the show, I had the unique opportunity to share dinner with Richards at a local vegan restaurant, where he took the time to explain the differences between touring in the United States and his native turf of Europe and the U.K. In addition to being on the roster of U.K.'s renowned independent record label Twisted Records, Ott has been touring the U.S. to support his latest release, Skylon (released in March 2008 - peep it below). Skylon is a collection of unique, modern electro-acoustic dub with a generous spat of indigenous sounds from around the world ladled into the mix. Ott tours with an Allen & Heath Xone 4D, which is an analog four-channel mixer combined with multiple midi controllers. This particular mixer is not common in North America and provides a very unique approach to a laptop driven set. Using the controller elements of this mixer allows Ott to perform from start to finish without touching his laptop once. He also uses a Kaoss Pad and a Kaossilator for live effects.
Since Chris Richards has been touring with Ott throughout the U.S., I asked him how he felt about the scene at the show.
"The Asheville show was a great experience," he says. "The vibe of the audience was pure, energetic and magical. Every show, venue, audience and event is unique, and one can't expect to compare them night after night. They all provide a different experience. The Asheville show, however, does rank amongst the highlights of the March '09 tour."
To complete the night's well-crafted lineup, local favorite DJ Medesin kept the vibes rolling. It was obvious that many people in the crowd had been waiting for his performance. Everyone instantly shifted their focus over to the DJ booth as he riled the crowd on the mic and laid down psy-trance tracks from his recently released album, Touch Samadhi, meaning "focal point of enlightenment." Medesin continued on with a well-balanced set of live mixes and psychedelic electronica emphasizing his sub genre styles, including psy-chill, psy-dub and glitch-hop. He released unbelievable energy, illustrating his excitement to be sharing the stage with Ott, one of his main role models.
Ott's presence was an inspiration to the bands and crowd at this show. Though each of the musicians demonstrated their own unique styles, their synchronicity propelled the electronic music scene in Asheville towards positivity and enlightenment.
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