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DARKSIDE reward the patient at The Fillmore

Nico

Photos by James Nagel // Written by Mike Frash //

DARKSIDE with High Water //
The Fillmore — San Francisco
January 24, 2014 //

Word is out on 24-year-old pioneering electronic musician Nicolas Jaar and what he does live. Improvising and looping live instrumentals to craft ambient soundscapes, experimental downtempo beats & ruminative house, Jaar is the king of control, doing it all with a healthy dose of patience.

Teaming up with college friend Dave Harrington to form DARKSIDE presented a new challenge for the Chilean born man that calls Brooklyn home — Jaar had never worked with electric guitar. Nico first brought Harrington into the fold to support his 2011 album Space Is Only Noise on the road, giving the two ample time to test an intermingling of electronic music and the instrument that signifies rock & roll.

On their first US tour as DARKSIDE, Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington together are monumental in their minimalist approach to sound, progressive in form, and mind-blowing in combination with suitable visual production.

DARKSIDE

In true SF fashion, fog filled the stage and the front of the Fillmore prior to the show’s start, and it was still there after the first song, a 22 minute “Freak, Go Home”. The first recognizable part of the track didn’t begin until about 12 minutes in.

In many ways, DARKSIDE function as a jamband. Harrington recently explained to LA Weekly, “…what we do every night is so steeped in improvisation, and that’s what is exciting for us…Once we get through the two or three minutes that we planned, that song will probably go on for another ten or fifteen, and then we take it in whatever direction we see fit at the moment.”

Throughout the evening, the duo played only a handful of recognizable songs, proving improv is more important than preplanning. While improvisation is often a jamband’s calling card, the aspect of this Fillmore performance that was most reminiscent of a good jamband proved to be DARKSIDE’s expert use of tension and release.

Simmering melodic-based atmosphere moved to dramatic slow builds, Jaar would introduce a track along the way — all creating tension. Then well-deserved bass drops revealed themselves in both sneaky and progressive ways, establishing a prolonged release in the form of the crowd losing their shit to four on the floor house beats and body-shaking bass. While jambands release the stress with instrumental jamming, DARKSIDE rewards with a bass-heavy house.

One of the most memorable transitions came deep into “Paper Trails” when the drop developed over four quick beats in a measure, from no bass to full on bass domination. It was a striking example of Jaar’s original, crafty abilities in the moment.

Darkside_vortex

The stage visuals added a positive impact to the overall experience, working ideally with this 21st Century jamband. DARKSIDE used smoke & mirrors to breathtaking effect, creating semi-optical illusions that were most entrancing at the more intense sections of the show.

The lighting was deliberate and paced on track with the methodical yet improvisational nature of the show. It began with contrast-heavy black and white, the two performers backlit by spotlights. An orange hue arrived mid-show, then blue took over for a bit. Banks of floodlights were timed to a big drop during an elongated, magnificent “Paper Trails”, but the effect I referred to as the “Eye of Sauron” stole the show.

A large mirror hanging above the stage was angled toward Jaar for much of the concert, refracting light onto the true right of the stage. But the mirror unsuspectedly swung toward the stage, and once swirling fog spewed around it and a spotlight from the back of the house was pointed directly at it, a portal-like wormhole to another dimension panned back and forth over the crowd. It was trippy, heady, the kind of thing you would expect from a band like STS9. It was pretty amazing.

SF must have been good to DARKSIDE, as we were treated with not one, but two encores. After another ambient, slow building stretch of sound, the crowd showed their love in unison, impressing Jaar to grab his microphone stand one more time. “Golden Arrow” then appeared out of the ether to finish the evening with the long opening track from Psychic.

DARKSIDE provided an experimental aural journey, one that paid off by being as patient as the musicians on stage.

Nico and Dave probably won’t have dance-heads following them from city to city like the Grateful Dead or Phish, but they’re certainly worth seeing more than once.

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