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Soulwax make up for lost time with a wild LA show

SoulwaxBy Zach Bourque //

Soulwax with Rory Phillips //
The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles
April 19th, 2018 //

Soulwax have always been an elusive force in music. The Belgian electronic group, led by brothers David Dewaele and Stephen Dewaele, has remained relatively hush over the past decade or so, particularly in North America.

Fabled performances at both the 2008 and 2010 editions of HARD Summer Music Festival in LA helped Soulwax’s live instrumentation and unconventional style stand out amid a sea of standard rave acts. The Dewaele brothers would occasionally stop by performing mashup DJ sets under the guise 2manydjs, but for the select few that caught one of those early Soulwax shows, it was the stuff of legends.

In 2016, the group debuted a new live setup, which went by the name of “Soulwax Transient Program for Drums and Machinery”, and this month it returned to the U.S. for two weekends at Coachella (read our festival review here). Fortunately for us (and San Francisco), Soulwax decided to bless our cities with side shows in between festival weekends. Last Thursday they invaded The Fonda Theatre for a sold-out affair that would further cement their live legacy in Southern California.

Their mammoth stage setup looked in part much like a mobile recording studio, engulfing the stage with more metal than a “Transformers” movie. But it actually starts to make more sense once you realize that their new album From Deewee was recorded in one 48-minute take using the same live stage setup. Given the entire rig’s sheer size, it was hardly a surprise that opener Rory Phillips was relegated to a nook off to the side due to the shear lack of space available.

Soulwax

Phillips’ upbeat and unpretentious set provided appropriate background music while the rabid crowd awaited Soulwax, and what a crowd it was. With the majority of the audience members looking like they just stumbled out of Coachella’s Sahara Tent, it was a notably inebriated collection of folks that broke new ground for a Thursday night.

Yes, in fact, we’re talking public nudity, incessant vomiting and more people stumbling to the exit than a San Andreas earthquake. For those who actually remembered the show though, it was one for the books.

While Soulwax’s recorded music has always been perfectly enjoyable, in person it becomes something else entirely. Their new, three-drummer lineup was the ideal format to hear new tracks like “Is It Always Binary” while giving older tracks such as “KracK” a newly textured and complex sound. Sitting stage right, drummer Victoria Smith, for one, offered the group some serious personality thanks to her animated facial expressions.

Soulwax capped things off with “E Talking” from 2005’s Nite Versions and “NY Excuse” off 2004’s Any Minute Now before snapping fans back into reality for their journey home. While their return to LA proved to be a highly memorable experience for those fortunate enough to share a spot inside the packed venue, we just hope that it won’t be another years-long hiatus before they return to the states.

Setlist:
No Drums (intro)
Do You Want to Get Into Trouble?
Essential 3
KracK
Is It Always Binary
Missing Wires
Conditions of a Shared Belief
Heaven Scent
Transient Program for Drums and Machinery
Essential 5
Another Excuse
Glass
The Singer Has Become a Deejay
Here Come the Men in Suits
E Talking
Inward
Miserable Girl
NY Excuse

Encore:
Goodnight Transmission

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