The New Deal | Philly | Review | Pics | Video

Words & Images by: Jake Krolick

The New Deal :: 09.24.10 :: Electric Factory :: Philadelphia, PA

Jamie Shields by Jake Krolick
There is a music documentary that came out in 2009 called The Heart is a Drum Machine. It contains a scene in which a drummer pontificates about how the music that we connect with stems from the rhythm of our heartbeat. With that notion in mind, consider The New Deal's drummer Darren Shearer. Whether you watch him play or simply interact with him, he epitomizes that quote as enthusiasm spills out of his internal metronome and blasts to your ears via his drum kit. The Electric Factory found Shearer, bassist Dan Kurtz and keyboard wiz Jamie Shields doing what they've done best over the past 12 years - dominating their own live electronic genre. The audience synced themselves to the pulse coming from the stage and the Electric Factory was alive. This new living, breathing, thriving organism - whose purpose may have had a deeper meaning – was, for the time being, solely a dance machine.

The New Deal invited Bay Area hip-hop legend Lyrics Born and his band to open their Pennsylvania and Massachusetts shows. Pimping his soon-to-be-released album As You Were, the Japanese-American rapper Tsutomu "Tom" Shimura ripped through several older songs before getting frustrated with the buzzing crowd anxious to shake-ass. I dug his freestyle joint with shout outs to our cheese steak city, but apparently, I was in the minority. When he debuted his new single, "Lies X 3," as much of the crowd stayed fairly lackluster. From all accounts the Northampton show the next evening fared better, but it was a tough pill to swallow for a rowdy Philadelphia crowd.

The New Deal rescheduled this show several times before finally making it happen. Despite the other electronic show going down in Philadelphia's navy yard, tND pulled a decent-sized crowd and rocked the Factory until 1:45 a.m. with two sets and a speedy encore. Having just released a new record, Live: Toronto 7.16.2009, Shearer, Kurtz and Shields were in outstanding moods as they embarked on a 21 show romp through the States.

The first set was dominated with jams, while some serious alien sounds emerged from Shields' keyboards. His crafty, non-looped playing combined with the key changes they were doing early on made for a spirited first set. To be honest, I'm not sure they played one "song" save for a set-ending epic version of "Octobong."

This didn't change during the second set as Kurtz let his fingers do the walking through a wicked "Moonscraper" jam and what sounded like "Gone, Gone, Gone." All three musicians have mastered the ability to construct moments in the music that fluctuate on strict command from low to high. If you examined the topography of Friday's music, its horizon line was dominated by a roller coaster of peaks and valleys. This style has come to define what is somewhat-instinctive-yet-subconsciously awesome about their performances. Their music forces you to anticipate the building-driving moments and lash out in fits of dance and arm pumping.

By the show's encore - a speedy version of "VL Tone" - the Electric Factory was in shambles. As the trio bounced notes off the walls, I realized how powerful the anticipation of a sound is as an element of music. The New Deal excel at stirring this kind of hungry desire in audiences, offering just the right balance of foreplay and release, like a good live band should.

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[Published on: 10/4/10]

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