The Crystal Method Live at El Rey

Sin City-natives Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland of The Crystal Method fame are considered by many to be among the progenitors of modern American electronic music for good reason. It’s hard to believe their certified-platinum debut, Vegas, was released in 1997 — long before electronic music was ever considered cool in this country — since they’ve somehow managed to stay continuously relevant within the sphere of dance music aficionados. In support of their self-titled fifth release, the duo announced a special, first-time-ever live band show for fans in their adoptive home of, you guessed it, Los Angeles. Naturally, I was so there.

The Crystal Method

After hunting for an errant lens cap on a gloriously seventy-something January evening (what polar vortex?), I made my way into El Rey Theatre where Angelenos Bixel Boys were laying down some hard-hitting-yet-unconventional bangers. Although they were formed almost exactly a year ago, they gelled like their more-seasoned contemporaries, taking care to deftly mix healthy smatterings of their original tracks into the set.

Following the Bixel Boys came the customary backstage scramble after which the crimson curtain obstructing most of the stage was drawn back to reveal an audiophile’s wet dream enclosed in the lighting equivalent of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Drum kits and guitar amps alongside synthesizers? Having caught the Crystal Method’s DJ sets several times prior, this was undoubtedly uncharted territory for me.

The Crystal Method

The opening crescendo of “Emulator” signified the start of an evening that was to be filled with bass-riddled face melters. Though I admittedly found The Crystal Method to be a touch weaker next to the duo’s four previous releases, it was difficult not to swallow at least some of my skepticism when watching the tracks performed live, particularly “Sling The Decks” and “Over It,” during which guest vocalist Dia Frampton took the stage in all her adorable glory.

Although they played somewhat heavily from their newest effort, Jordan and Kirkland also scattered in some of their classic tracks, culminating in a one-two punch of an encore set comprising Vegas’ “Busy Child” and “Trip Like I Do,” which featured the vocal stylings of Filter’s Richard Patrick.

Though I was admittedly partial to their older tracks, I was somewhat miffed by the omission of Divided by Night’s “Double Down Under” given how heavily it had been promoted during the record’s release. I was more than miffed by the gyrating of Franky Perez’s hips through the last five tracks of the first set. Though the guy has undeniable vocal chops, 20 consecutive minutes of scream-singing was admittedly more than I had bargained for.

As far as the live band aspect of the show goes, that all worked undeniably well. Given that The Crystal Method’s sound has historically been on the rawer side of electronic music, the translation from production to live was fittingly visceral and, quite frankly, sexy to behold. With a shorter runtime and a more diverse catalog, The Crystal Method’s stab at the live band schtick fared much better than Fort Collins-based compatriot Pretty Lights.

The Crystal Method

Although the show definitely ended up squarely in the net positive realm, with a little more polish, The Crystal Method could turn their live band setup into something truly magical. I eagerly await the next iteration of their live band show, provided they they stick with this format. I, for one, certainly hope they do.