Having spent most of my weekends for the last two years at concerts, I’m sadly fairly immune to the pre-concert excitement I used to get when I was a broke college student and live music was a luxury that required a sustained diet of Saltine crackers to afford. Last Saturday, however, I elatedly sauntered through the glitzy LA Live complex en route to Club Nokia giddy at the prospect of seeing Australian duo The Presets. This may not be difficult to fathom considering I’ve gone on record regarding my love for the band, saying that The Presets’ performance at Coachella 2011 was “unequivocally the best live set I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life to date.” Still, arriving at the venue 3.5 hours prior to the start of the duo’s set was probably a bit on the excessive side.
While waiting in the comically stringent security line (I’m sorry, but metal detectors?), I noticed a fair number of fully costumed attendees scattered among the standard set of concert-going hipsters that have become ubiquitous with the LA music scene. Pretty par for the course considering this was the weekend before Halloween, but interesting to witness nonetheless.
Upon entering the venue, I was greeted by a group of mimes and, fittingly, the tail end of a set from French DJ Yuksek. This was followed by one from production duo Oliver, and having seen them twice before, I had an idea of what to expect. Being that every set from Oliver has introduced me to a sizable cache of new music, I readied my iPhone for the impending SoundHound/Shazam assault. Much of their set was spent doing the bounce-awkwardly-while-you-tag-songs-on-your-smartphone dance. I really don’t have any shame when it comes to new music discovery.
Australian duo Flight Facilities took the stage next. As I had given them the #4 spot on my list of the Top Five Artists From Down Under, I was definitely stoked to experience their live set for the first time, and they did not disappoint in the slightest.
Appropriately clad in a pilot’s cap and an aviator hat, Flight Facilities brought their signature flair of ambient-yet-danceable tunes to Club Nokia. They opened with Michael Jackson’s classic “Thriller” before working in their own track, “With You.” Their set, rife with sexy track selections and seamless transitions, was fit for a club setting but would have been equally appropriate for a long, scenic drive to Big Sur. If anyone has a recording of the performance, I want it. Badly.
At 11:45, the lights in Club Nokia dimmed for the final act of the night, The Presets. Even in the darkened venue, the glimmer of vocalist Julian Hamilton’s metallic blazer was faintly visible from the balcony. After a momentary pause amid a chorus of cheers from the audience, the opening beats of “Push” began to play, and Hamilton’s vocals filled the venue. Definitely an unconventional, but passable, track to start with.
It was their live rendition of “Girl And The Sea,” however, that had me swooning. The appropriately cerulean-lit stage and wave-patterned lighting paired perfectly with the wistful lyrics. Because they had passed on playing “Girl And The Sea” when I saw them at Coachella, this was the first time I had heard it performed live. It was fucking magical.
I wasn’t particularly fond of “Fall” when I first listened to Pacifica in its entirety, but I did predict that it would translate well in a live setting. I didn’t anticipate how accurate that prediction would end up being, and I’m surprised to admit this may have been one of my favorite songs of the night. “Promises,” on the other hand, I could have done without. I found this to be the low point of an otherwise spectacular set. Granted, this has more to do with my subjective opinion of the track than how The Presets performed it live.
Following a mellow run comprised of “Ghosts” and “This Boy’s In Love,” The Presets picked up the pace with “I Go Hard, I Go Home,” a track from their debut album, Beams, which was followed by the beautifully cacophonous “Youth In Trouble.” At the height of the chaos was crowd-pleaser “My People,” the chorus of which features the lyric “So let me hear you scream if you’re with me;” the audience raucously complied every time. The explosive pace was maintained through the flawlessly executed “Fast Seconds” and culminated in the first set’s closer, “A.O.”
The encore set opened with “Surrender,” providing a temporary reprieve from the frenzy that preceded it. Not wishing to go out quietly, The Presets led this into the tantalizingly aggressive “Kicking And Screaming” before closing out the night with a reworked version of my personal favorite track of theirs, “Talk Like That.” Though I’m admittedly slightly partial to the original version of “Talk Like That,” I can’t fault The Presets for mixing things up with a banging remix of my favorite track.
Squarely in the center of last Saturday’s action were Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes. While most modern electronic artists’ performances consist of DJs playing a prerecorded mix from a Macbook Pro, Hamilton and Moyes could be seen on stage singing, playing the keyboard, tinkering with a synthesizer, laying down drumbeats, etc. More often than not, they were effortlessly performing two or more of these actions simultaneously. Even if The Presets’ style of music isn’t your cup of tea, it’s difficult not to at least appreciate that level of musicianship.
Unless you’re fond of disappointment, it’s generally not a great idea to go into a show with exceedingly high expectations. If you’re watching The Presets, however, feel free to leave those expectations unchecked. They’re in a league of their own when it comes to delivering face-meltingly phenomenal performances, and while their Coachella 2011 set still retains the distinction of being the best live set I’ve ever witnessed to date, their set at Club Nokia last Saturday was undeniably one of the best I’ve seen all year.
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