When I told my girlfriend that I was taking her to a techno show at Chicago’s Empty Bottle, she was more than a little hesitant. After all, the Empty Bottle is largely known for its punk, garage, and metal shows, and techno is somewhat of a dirty and misused word these days. We were there to see The Field, the electronic endeavor of producer Axel Willner. I had heard some good things from a friend, but had no idea what I was in for.
It turns out the Field plays as a three piece band, complete with a live drummer and electric bass player, and right from the beginning of their set they blew me away. The three piece set up and bizarre live underground vibe they created fit the Empty Bottle incredibly well. This wasn’t glossy overproduced shiny dance music, but something much more warm and fuzzy, even intimate. The show opened with a very thick, brainswirling synth drone, and slowly but constantly building pulses that seemed to come from inside your own body. The crowd was very relaxed but focused in the music, everyone was very intentionally being lulled into a trance. The very processed and compressed electric bass gave a great punchy bounce to the enveloping electronics, something like a much smoother, less obnoxious version of Justice’ bass. The drums rolled in sync with electronic drum machine rhythms creating a body moving groove. The music continued this way for about 15 minutes, as the crowd lazily danced and the tension built, creating rabid anticipation. And then, with everyone in the palm of their hands, the Field let loose a sudden and beautiful explosion of extremely smooth techno. And the crowd went WILD.
The show carried on in this fashion for the rest of the night with no loss of energy or amazingly interesting electronic work whatsoever, something of a feat for such a repetitive style of music. I can’t stress enough how much fun the crowd was having, and how the energy of the band and the crowd was being passed back and forth, something that is missing in a lot of sterile laptop playback DJs. The atmosphere was great too, as the Field opted for almost completely no light on stage, save for some Christmas lights and the occasional very dim single blip of a strobe or two.(something that made photos quite impossible to take.)
I have been to a lot of dance music shows with some very big name acts that you know you are supposed to want to shake your ass to, whether or not they actually deserve said booty shaking. It seems many people just want to hit you over the head with their music, almost forcing you to dance without choice. I think I prefer the approach of the Field, they let you understand the music and find yourself inside of it, and eventually you have to dance because it feels unnatural not to.