Conspirator | NYC | Review

Words by: Chadbyrne R. Dickens | Images by: Steven Limentani

Conspirator :: 04.28.12 :: Irving Plaza :: New York, NY

Conspirator by Steven Limentani
I walked into a sea of mostly collegiate aged fans at Irving Plaza and asked myself why I was there. Was it a coincidence or a conspiracy? Although I had been to one Disco Biscuits show, I had not yet experienced what its popular electronic “side act” Conspirator brought to the table. Due to the fact that many younger friends raved about this band in a “you can’t miss this, dude” way, it was partly a conspiracy on their part to ensure my attendance in an effort to share what they deem so important. So, it was no coincidence that I eagerly made a point to attend this performance. I was eager to witness what the hubbub was about and to see how this incarnation differed from the Biscuits. Finally, I shared in a most refreshing and entertaining night of music with Conspirator and learned that even when one thinks they’ve heard it all, music again demonstrates it knows no boundaries.

The fans flocking into this Saturday night gig were unconsciously sharing a pleasant angst as they waited for the show to start. Looking out across the bursting floor of the nearly sold-out historic 1,500 capacity venue, most were attired in the traditional electronic ‘swag’ consisting of hoodies, colorful t-shirts and baggie pants adorned with trippy patterns, many holding glow sticks and blowing bubbles. Although young, many of these are diehard fans who have logged into more than 50-100+ Disco Biscuits concerts and worship at the altar of bassist Marc Brownstein in a manner reminiscent of the way Deadheads worship Garcia. These fans were aware Conspirator would be pulling out all the stops this night as this was the concluding show of their extensive spring tour. With only a handful of Disco Biscuits shows scheduled for 2012, many engaged in the opportunity to get their ‘fix’ with this side project.

Brownie by Steven Limentani
Touring in support of Unlocked: Live at the Georgia Theatre (released April 10 on SCI Fidelity), the band took over the stage with immediate strength and direction. Aron Magner (keyboards), Marc “Brownie” Brownstein (bass), Chris Michetti (guitar), KJ Swaka (drums) attacked “Hands Up,” which pulled the adoring fans into their clutches with no intent to sever the connection until the music wound to a close late in the evening. Conspirator’s energy was heavy, hard and throttled notes into the faces and eardrums of attendees. I was not all that surprised that there was virtually no singing as their sound was so very similar an archetypal jam band.

With his prominent presence center stage, Brownie controlled the action and energy onstage. Wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt and his trademark baseball cap slightly askew, he appeared like a more filled-out Beastie Boy, savoring to the fullest every minute of his stage time. Brownie even thanked the crew and all of the folks who supported them on this most recent tour. Conspirator is known to take a creative approach to their live shows, where computers are used religiously to add unique sounds and create rare noises when enmeshed with the other instruments.

Conspirator unveiled some new material from the live album including “Gypsy Lane” and “Countach,” which garnered more fan involvement than I expected from lesser-known tunes. The relentless, heavy groove and deep jamming lasted for around 10 minutes at a time yet ran by incredibly fast as the crowd danced hard as one song segued into another. I had never heard of Conspirator until last year and the only song I knew was their cover of “Another Brick in the Wall” which I found on YouTube – a fast, engaging, energetic and unforgettable interpretation. Brownie shared that he purposely adds known covers to bring in a wider audience – including those who love jam music but are older and less knowledgeable about the electronic scène. The band ripped through a bombastic, blazing version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” which rocked the house and closed the first set’s inferno. Ironically, the band had just covered “Scarlet Begonias” at the previous show.

Conspirator by Steven Limentani
After the first set, DJ Sawka performed a 30 minute drum solo. Surprisingly, many fans stayed on the dance floor, mesmerized by DJ’s impressive work with his kit. Personally, I found it rather tedious and a completely different sound and mood when juxtaposed to the rest of the night’s music. If I ran to the bathroom as soon as I could during “Drums,” I certainly was not too keen on such a long solo. One may be better served to confine extended drum solos to a circle in Woodstock. The band finally returned and immediately punched into a cover of Rihanna’s “Rude Boy.” The crowd seemed to have fun with it, although I’ve never heard the original and didn’t understand the novelty of covering it. Hearing the Rihanna song was similar to Trey singing, “Hey Ya,” where it’s a fine tune but I’d rather not waste a live song on such nonsense.

When I casually polled many spent, sweaty and disorganized patrons their highlight of this profoundly tight and energetic night was “Liquid Sawyer,” a mash-up of The Key’s “Liquid Handcuffs” and Rush’s epic “Tom Sawyer.” After the crowd pleasing sing-a-long to end the show, “Portal to an Empty Head,” the requisite hard-core clapping subsided, indicating the darkened stage was now permanent dark. Fans who had been so immersed in the experience took a moment to remember where they were. It wasn’t a coincidence and it wasn’t a conspiracy. Fortuitously, it was Conspirator. Oh, what a night.

Set I: Hands Up > Gypsy Lane > Countach > Abraxas > Hard Acid > Commercial Amen > Fire

Set II: Rude Boy > Flash Mob > Orch Theme > Brooklyn Bridge > Orch Theme > Liquid Sawyer > Caves of the East > Feed the Wolf > Say My Name

Encore: Fascinate >Portal To An Empty Head

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[Published on: 5/21/12]

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