Thursday night at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom might not have been the best place to see too many great singers, but stellar musicians abounded. First up was Walls, a two-piece electronic act that took the stage right at 9:00. The band lived up to the implications of it’s name, filling the room with thumping beats that could be felt deep in one’s chest. Multi-colored lights searched the crowd, often pulling back to reveal a shade of deep red with hints of blue. Band members Alessio Natalizia and Sam Willis bobbed up and down to the beats they created, only occasionally offering an indecipherable yelp into the microphone, more often focused on their guitars and a myriad of sample sounds.
The duo played straight through their entire set without taking a break, which emphasized the dance-party vibes of their sound and presentation. The crowd didn’t quite match the band’s energy, mostly standing still and nodding slightly, but Walls gamely played on. As their set continued, the band started occasionally thinning out their sound, allowing each member numerable solos on their respective music making device.
Like their opener, Battles arrived on time, opening their set with an expansive, pallet-wetting take on “Race: In.” As is the band’s custom, drummer John Stanier was set up center stage, and it’s apparent why: the man a percussion machine, furious and instinctive, beating his instruments until they beg for mercy. As good as the other members of Battles are, it can be pretty easy to hone in on watching Stanier and almost forget that there are other people there. But even with their drummer commanding so much attention, Ian Williams and Dave Konopka, the other members of Battles, made a big impression, each switching up instruments time and time again, all three interacting with unfathomable chemistry.
As with Walls, Battles lack a true vocalist, but the numerous vocal tracks that crop up on their 2011 album, Gloss Drop, were represented by videos of each of the guests singing their tune in extreme close-up right behind the band. The various faces and voices made for a psychedelic experience. The band occasionally weaved in new songs with their guests, such as on a revamped version of “Inchworm.”
Stanier’s shirt was completely drenched by the end of the show and finally, the audience’s feet finally set in motion due to the energetic outfit. When the set was finally over, the band looked ready for a much deserved rest, a fact made all the more evident by Stanier’s delayed return to the stage for the group’s encore. It was an exciting night, two great bands channeling electricity and fun through out the room
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