Ghostland Observatory @ the Fox TheatreBy Ricardo Baca | April 21st, 2008 | No Comments »
Austin’s Ghostland Observatory were almost upstaged by their lasers at their Saturday-night show at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. Photos by Laurie Scavo.
Ghostland Observatory is a good-times band, meaning you judge the Austin-based post-disco two-piece on the quality of the dance party surrounding their minimalist, heavily tracked live shows.
The band’s concerts rarely vary all that much. The intensely electronic music, crafted by producer/sideman Thomas Turner, is pretty much the same from show to show. Frontman Aaron Behrens is always expectedly flamboyant, pacing the length of the stage in his bell-bottoms and glammy shirt. Turner, always wearing a dramatic cape, switches between drums and keys excitedly trying to cover up the fact that most of the music blaring out of the PA was prerecorded months ago.
It’s silly, yes. But the recent record “Robotique Majestique” proved that Ghostland is hardly a shtick band. Turner has some chops as a producer, and he could very well be the next Danger Mouse. But the band’s live shows have needed something beyond the music for a while — and they smartly employed an old friend on Saturday night at the Fox Theatre to give them a much-needed boost.
Lasers have been around for nearly 50 years, but they’ve come a long way since the early days of experimentation in the 1960s. Ghostland played its entire Saturday set with minimal theater lighting and just two on-stage lasers, one on each side of the stage. As somebody who’s been to their fair share of raves — both the legitimate undergrounds and the more commercial massives — I’m no stranger to high-end lasers. But these beasts from Saturday night’s show were unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
They were icicles and snakes. They were smooth and jerky. They were colorful and stark. They were mind-bending counterparts to Ghostland’s energetic show — and the ideal companion to the electro-disco beats that fuel the band’s fiery flames.
The rave comparison works. The Fox, in its tiny glory, was a sold-out dance party. The entire room was moving. And the lasers were the talk of the room. They were the third and fourth band members. They helped you forget that this band’s sound can get a bit repetitive in the wrong environment, i.e. the Monolith Festival last year.
Sure, Ghostland sounded pretty good playing the main stage at Monolith ’07. But they didn’t look right up there on that gigantic stage in the middle of the day. Like other bands, Ghostland belongs in the clubs, where it’s dark and sweaty and confined.
Sure enough, they even sounded better in the Fox. The new “Dancing on My Grave” brought the night together, with its undeniable beats and impassioned vocals. (Granted, those are two qualifiers that could apply to any Ghostland track.) The sold-out audience was obviously more familiar with the slightly older underground hit “Sad Sad City,” which came about five songs into the evening with its thick synthesizers.
The group took on a decidedly more New Wave tone with one of the oldest tracks of the night, the excellent “Silver City,” handpicked from their first record, 2004′s “delete.delete.i.eat.meat…” It was also nice to hear that Behrens isn’t a one-note frontman. Outside of the early Chili Peppers-styled shout-singing he throws down most often, he can also carry a melody.
The Ghostland-lasers combo was a tremendous success, and the new “Robotique” material elevated the band’s live show tremendously. But it wasn’t all roses at the Fox on Saturday, mainly because the band took its sweet time getting on the stage.
The evening’s opener, DJ Chordata, was O.K. in his opening slot. His music selection was mostly on-point, but it wasn’t the cleanest or most fluid set. He was also asked to play a lengthy set, and even after he was done, Ghostland — a duo, mind you, with limited equipment — took forever to start the madness.
Ricardo Baca is the pop music critic at The Denver Post.
Laurie Scavo is a Denver-area photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.