Shpongle/Eskmo | 05.06 | Asheville

Words by: Brandon Bouchillon | Images by: Clay Savely

Shpongle/Eskmo/Dr. Fameus :: 05.06.09 :: Club Nashwa/Hookah Joe’s :: Asheville, NC

Shpongle :: 05.06 :: Asheville, NC
With signs of the slumping economy visible everywhere, from “For Sale” placards in the windows of local businesses to gas prices on the upswing, there’s one market that still seems bullish, even booming in Asheville – the electronic music scene.

It’s a scene that over the last month has played host to such established artists as Ott, Pretty Lights, Eliot Lipp, Dr. Fameus, and Pnuma Trio. As if those weren’t enough, on this Wednesday two major players in the DJ game were flown in for their Asheville debuts. And it’s safe to say Brendan Angelides, aka Eskmo, and Shpongle (a solo Simon Posford on the rings) made one hell of a first impression.

Club Nashwa is a venue with some character. Smells of body-odor, patchouli, dank and year-old dreadlocks mix together as the crowd churns in the converted warehouse space. Next door, Hookah Joe’s offers a brief respite from the tumultuous crowd. And hookahs. Connected via a hallway, the conjoined venues make it possible to hear nonstop music. These clubs are on the frontline of the fight to create a distinctive electronic scene in Asheville. And they’re winning handily.

No stranger to the ‘Ville, Allen Aucoin brought his drum-n-bass outfit, Dr. Fameus, to the city for the second time in as many weeks. By day, Aucoin meters out the rhythm for The Disco Biscuits, and by night, he’s the live drummer for Dr. Fameus. Set to Aucoin’s blueprint drumbeats, DJ Woo and Riles provided the synth and samples that made the people move. Although the venue was only about half full for Dr. Fameus, those present were treated to what’s quickly becoming the premier Disco Biscuit’s side-project, and with respected acts like Conspirator and Electron both playing with pieces from the Biscuit’s roster, that’s saying something.

Quiet, unassuming, even shy – not your usual adjectives to describe major musicians – Aucoin is as humble as he is immensely talented. “I’m blessed to be in this business. To play for crowds like this one in Asheville is an honor, and one I take seriously,” said Aucoin in his shy, no-nonsense clip.

Shpongle :: 05.06 :: Asheville, NC
A fresh-faced dub-step whiz-kid from Frisco, Brendan Angelides, aka Eskmo, has breathed new life into the formerly written-off genre. Dub-step isn’t the one-trick pony once thought, and it’s thanks in major part to Eskmo’s metronome rhythms and wonderfully wompy bass lines. With acts like DJ Rusko, Angelides is helping reinvent a genre.

“The guy is ridiculous and his tracks will not get outta your head,” claims Ben Anders, an Asheville resident and admitted scenester. “Whether he’s Eskmo or Welder [Angelides’ other DJ alias], one thing’s for certain, you’ll be moving by the time he’s done.”

With the crowd slam-stepping back-and-forth like Sumo wrestlers waddling into the ring, Eskmo turned up the heat. If temperature can serve as a fair judge of DJ talent – and in small clubs it can – then Eskmo has the goods to crank the dial beyond 100 degrees. If given the opportunity, see this man perform.

Although both Aucoin and Angelides were terrific, it was Simon Posford’s show to steal, and he ran away with it. Admittedly, this was my first time seeing Shpongle, and even though it wasn’t a full band set, the otherworldly chants of Raja Ram were just as affecting in digital form.

The set began with two dancers onstage, moving in deliberate, exaggerated rhythms. Both clothed in neon fluorescence from head to toe, the dancers donned DayGlo tribal masks, one with a sun on its forehead, the other with a moon. Coupled with the chants of Raja Ram and the production mastery of Simon Posford, the music sounded sinister in the best possible way. Macabre even.

All truly great music is divisive. Even when packed to the gills, only about half the Club Nashwa crowd was really moving for Shpongle’s set. The other half seemed entranced in the visuals, with juju masks in every color pixelating on the side-screens, and what looked like a six-eyed female gargoyle, the Shpongle logo, leering at the crowd.

Shpongle :: 05.06 :: Asheville, NC
While jailbreak spotlights of every color spun round through the room, Posford tore through his back-catalog, dropping bombs like the “Star-Sponged Banner,” where Raja Ram declares, “I am a shaman, magician/ The sun is purple/ 3D dimensions/ I am for mental extensions.”

“Around the World in a Tea Daze” has always been Shpongle’s opus, and Wednesday’s version did not disappoint. With flute-playing so intricate that the god Pan would be jealous, the room appeared to spin for this one.

“Its genre-bending, what Simon Posford does with Shpongle,” Alicia DeMange, a student from East Tennessee, commented. “Its not psy-bient, goa-trance or ambient music. It’s all of the above, none of the above, and something else entirely.”

After traveling through “Outer Shpongolia” and some promising new material, Posford got to his bread and butter – “Divine Moments of Truth,” arguably the most famous Shpongle track, and for good reason.

“LSD doo DMT/ Be here now/ I love everybody.”

With Raja Ram channeling lyrics like that, who could resist?

Posford also revealed that a new record is forthcoming. This after Shpongle had decided to call it quits after their third album, Nothing Lasts… But Nothing is Lost, dropped in 2005. “Yes, there is a fabled fourth Shpongle record in the works. Raja and I are working hard to have it finished by September,” admitted Posford. The new album’s working title is Ineffable Mysteries from Sphongleland.

So, look to get “Shpongled” all over again by the year’s end. And look for Asheville booking agencies like ComaGun Music and MeatCamp Productions to keep shaping their hometown scene as unique and distinctive. Or in the words of Simon Posford, “We know we have fans in the States. It’s just nice that agencies like these in Asheville have taken it upon themselves to get us here, to get us in front of our fans, who really don’t get to see us enough.”

It’s good to see you too Simon.

Shpongle tour dates available here.

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