TOGETHER presents Synæsthesia Boston
When I first started to hear the buzz around this year’s weeklong Together Festival in Boston, I felt like every lineup addition or show announcement outdid the last. They truly succeeded in bringing talented artists from all over the world to tickle any music fan’s fancy. In addition to the stacked schedule of live performances, the festival hosted industry-focused panels and art installations throughout each day, making it a more niche, Northeast version of Austin’s SXSW. I quickly started planning my schedule and trying to make the painful decisions of which artists to give my attention to each night. I was thrilled to see that Psylab was playing on Thursday April 5, and even better, they opened for Encanti, the multi-talented bass and visual projection god and hometown favorite who never ceases to put on a sweaty, entertaining performance. The event was later deemed TOGETHER presents Synæsthesia Boston, so I knew I was in for an auditory and visual treat, but what followed once I arrived exceeded my expectations.
Entering The Church, the small venue that was hosting the event, we were greeted by the glitchy, progressive sounds of Synnack, accompanied by a screen of beautifully weird cinematography. Unfortunately, we arrived at the end of the set, but we were lucky enough to catch the most creative use of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” that was ambient yet industrial, making me wish we could experience more. Thankfully they were generously giving out a DVD so I was able to bring them home with me. (Check out the DVD and their music here).
Blake Courter’s “Poincaré Kaleidoscope”
In the downtime between sets there was ample visual stimulation provided by Blake Courter’s Art Installation “Poincaré Kaleidoscope,” an interactive visualizer that could be manipulated through the use of a gaming joystick. I watched people playing with the piece and ended up meeting Blake and learning a little more about the project. His traditional medium is sculpture, but he co-founded a 3D direct modeling software company, so he is obviously a man of many hats. He wrote the program for the visualizer in C# in about a weekend after being inspired by a chapter in a book by M.C. Escher. The joystick control actually came as an afterthought as a somewhat sarcastic response to the trend of interactive art pieces. The visualizer produces a beautiful kaleidoscopic effect and it actually references an image library that Courter assembled, so you’ll occasionally see a familiar images or brand’s logos pop up from time to time. It was a stunning, fun piece that drew interest all night.
While waiting for Psylab to take the stage, I ventured over to a glowing merch table hosted by the lady friends of Casey Desmond, the Boston native who was there to make a surprise appearance between Psylab and Encanti. The table was covered with awesome screenprinted tees which the girls and Desmond design and print together, giving a nice personal feel to her merch. They also chatted me up and gave me a bracelet. “Have you seen Casey before?” they asked. I hadn’t actually, but they giddily let me know I was in for quite a treat, leaving me curious to see what she was all about.
As Psylab set up to take the stage and began to warm up, people were seduced by their slow, bass-heavy grooves. I had never seen Psylab, but I’m a longtime fan, so I made sure to get a prime spot (which isn’t hard in the intimate setting at the Church). The first jam started out slow and, in typical Psylab fashion, progressed into a faster drum-n-bass tempo. It was apparent that they were having some sound issues and the members were constantly checking in with each other looking a bit frazzled, so it was tough to really sync up with them as a member of the audience. They continued on, but couldn’t get the sound tech issues sorted out. Keyboardist Eartha Harris expressed frustration over a couple of her synths not working, which for Psylab meant they were missing some pretty integral sounds. The rest of the set was decent, journeying through genres like dub and DnB, and even getting a little tribal with samples of bongos, but it seemed like the technical difficulties prevented them from ever really connecting with each other sonically.
Next up was Casey Desmond. I had no idea what kind of music she played, but judging from her merch girls’ excitement and passion (and the awesome T-shirts), I thought it would be interesting. She entered the stage a crazy glowing center of hot pink, her body fully painted in tribal fashion in neon blacklight paint. She looked like a psychedelic Rihanna with her crazy red beehive, mohawkish hair and tiny neon Tarzan-like dress. I had no clue what the hell she was about to do. People started filling in around us and it was clear this surprise set had gotten around in her fanbase. Encanti shared the stage with her, manning the beats and also sporting a face of paint. Her performance started out slow to bring you in. Rainbow visuals cast over her as she slowly writhed and crawled around on the stage. Heavy fast-paced beats led in and she opened her mouth and began belting out a techno pop song that you might hear from Lady Gaga, but her voice was so much more powerful. Finally, the crowd was moving and dancing and felt electric. Being there made me realize Casey Desmond was the perfect talent for this event. She embodies Synæsthesia, coupling wild visuals with a really fun and impressive musical experience.
The transition into Encanti’s set was smooth. He was already on stage locking down the production for Casey, so as she exited, he segued into his own set. He started with “Otter vs. Badger,” a track that features bongos by String Cheese/EOTO’s Jason Hann. Encanti creates some of the most unique, grimiest, tempo-defying dubstep I have ever heard and, regardless of how niche it is, people let their bodies go and put Encanti in control, contorting and moving in ways they probably didn’t realize they could. Encanti took a little trip through his catalog of craftily-produced music that featured tracks like “Trickster Equalizer,” “Motion Sickness Remix” and new tracks I had never heard. After seeing a number of his performances, one thing I can count on is no two Encanti shows are the same. The entire set was paired with a collection of visuals and lasers, staying true to one of his other talents, VJing, which he has done for artists like EOTO and Shpongle. Encanti’s set was the perfect way to end the night, combining heavy danceable music with a passionate crowd of friends, stellar visuals and equally entertaining stage presence. He sang, danced and sweated along with the rest of us…and his raver bunny chick.