Review: Beats Antique’s multi-cultural musical journey at Belly Up Aspen
Special to The Aspen Times
Beats Antique hypnotized the Belly Up with their signature cocktail of world fusion and electronica with a gypsy groove. The mosh pit at the May 6 show was packed with dreadlocked groupies sporting glow-in-the-dark bindis and glittery pantyhose, wound-up like pythons waiting for the band to work their snake-charming magic.
Beats Antique is a three-piece livetronica outfit based out of the Bay Area, consisting of multi-instrumentalist David Satori, lead percussionist Tommy “Sidecar” Cappel and belly dancer extraordinaire Zoe Jakes. Their unique sound and multimedia show is partly the product of Satori’s extensive travels through West and North Africa and partly influenced by the modern EDM cultural wave. The trio seamlessly weaves classical sitar and gypsy violin riffs with heavy, down-tempo beats, conjuring images of Malian legend Boubacar Traore with a dash of Thievery Corporation and Diplo. Their act is among the best in a current music-industry trend of sophisticated, live, dance-oriented performances designed to optimize audience engagement and immersion.
The trio opened their set with “Roustabout” — a highly stylized, pulsing, electronic jam; the group transformed the venue into a rousing psychedelic gypsy pep rally. Belly dancer Jakes was an enchanting spectacle in the forefront of the stage, wielding a snare drum around her waist, like a drum major, commanding the tempo of the song and whipping up the crowd. The stage was saturated with psychotropic black-and-white film, conjuring images of Middle Eastern contortionists and dancers.
Satori and Cappel could galvanize the crowd with a tidal wave of bass from a Bassnectar sample or transfix the audience like snake charmers, playing slow, exotic melodies. On “Mayans vs. Aliens,” the dancers seized the stage sporting extravagant feathered headdresses, swaying to the rhythm in a highly choreographed way while simultaneously playing percussion. The song itself was an oriental melody; Satori’s violin echoed through the venue over an appropriately lethargic tribal beat.
Beats Antique’s alien remix of “Colony Collapse” displayed their idiosyncratic brand of EDM in an exceptionally danceable experimental collage of beats and chimes. Jakes came on stage dressed in a flamboyant, sparkly gypsy skirt and bra to perform an outlandish, fascinating belly dance routine. On another song that resembled an electronic, gothic lullaby, Jakes appeared on stage wearing antlers on her head and a voluminous white dress. As the song began to crescendo, she oscillated to the building tempo, her dress expanded and eventually cloaked the stage in a sea of white cloth. A ghostly dim blue light bathed the spectacle and the crowd in a mystical wash.
Toward the end of their set, they played “Beauty Beats,” a song that fused Afrobeat with classical Middle Eastern instrumentation. This obscure mixture of sounds complemented the transcendental atmosphere created by the performers and the epileptic light show, which ended with a vigorous tune that sounded like French gypsy jazz compounded with a blazing electronic drum and bass line. Dancers hit the stage dressed like paranormal cheerleaders waving red-and-blue-cotton-candy-colored pompoms. The crowd was dancing frenetically as if possessed.
By the time the band departed the stage, they had successfully transformed a routine, offseason Tuesday night in the mountains into a freakish, sexy musical circus. As the crowd filed out of Belly Up, you could almost see the tail of a desert caravan of camels wending its way through Arabic tents, the smell of saffron and patchouli wafting through the night.
Will Kahn is a student at Aspen High School.