Two weekends ago, the electronic fusion group Beats Antique played a two-night engagement at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg. But before we get to the performance (calling it a concert would be limiting), let's talk for a moment about the venue.
The Brooklyn Bowl is simply fantastic. As someone who has lived and adventured in Brooklyn for a long time, I’m kind of ashamed I didn’t know about this place previously. As you enter through what seemingly feels like a back door-side entrance, passing through multiple check-in bouncers, you walk into pretty much the coolest basement you or any of your high school friends could dream of.
A long, sleek bar has everything, from local brewery SixPoint on tap to deliciously bitter Campari. So if you enjoy a drink (or five), they're got you pretty much covered. Widescreen TVs hovering above the bowling alleys (yes, it is an actual working bowling alley) were showing The Fellowship of the Ring while Paul Simon’s “Graceland” played in the background. Two very good signs. Bowling always seemed so trite in the suburbs, but something about rolling in Brooklyn seems much more appealing. Across from the bowling arena is the concert area, a small and intimate stage but designed well, featuring an open atmosphere to accommodate a large amount of people.
Beats Antique is predominantly comprised of three members: Zoe Jakes, Tommy Cappel, and David Satori, who formed the group in California's Bay Area around 2007. A cross between electronic, dubstep, Middle Eastern, and jazz would be a good start trying to define what type of sound they create. Their music is mainly instrumental (lyrics present only in certain songs) and to perform it live involves a great many instruments along with other music technology. When listening to their music it’s natural to be curious about how this is recreated on stage. However, all fears are alleviated when watching these very talented musicians and skilled performers live.
Combine this worldly-fusion sound with belly dancing and you have the beginning of what one might call performance art. Jakes, a classically trained dancer, is definitely the focus. After an entertaining trombone-filled opening act by the group Super Hi-Fi and the mandatory break in between, almost all of the members of Beats Antique take the stage. The colored lights glow and the first few notes creep in as we are under the assumption the concert has started. But the night truly commenced when Jakes, covered in an ornately traditional bedlah, began moving hypnotically to the transient rhythms and, well, beats, making center stage her own. Though she was not present for every single song, her vigor was imbued in the rest of the group, picking up the raw and intense energy that dissipated out of the doors, spilling into Williamsburg proper.
Beats Antique embraces the avant-garde spectrum of performance. Ms. Jakes, aided by other featured dancers, started in mask, evoking the sensual and seductive nature of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. But the off-kilter surprises weren't relegated to the movement crew. The set included band members dressed in creepily realistic animal headdresses, not letting Jakes have all the freaky fun. At one point, a rather large costumed character likely pulled out of the Japanese animation film Spirited Away graces the stage in elaborate fashion, to tell his (or maybe her) story. What that might be, I’m not 100% sure. The music almost becomes a backdrop to the story being told through movement on stage, as if solely designed for this interpretation, making for an evening that is one part Cabaret, one part burlesque, and nine parts awesome.
Whether they were bewildered first timers or enthusiastic veteran fans, the crowd was captivated, and the response was nothing short of enthusiastic. Amid the thumping bass and dark visual components, the young, energetic Brooklynites easily fell into an interpretative dance party. A girl next to me, clearly lost in her movements, bumped into the lone stationary concert attendee and jokingly remarked, “Sorry. If you can’t dance, then you can’t be here.”
The night climaxed as the group gloriously played “Egyptic” from their recent album, Blind Threshold, greeted happily with a sea of hands extended to the sky. By the end of the night, the group had the crowd completely enraptured, with each and every note felt and reciprocated. They carried this feeling out the doors and into the warm Spring night in Brooklyn, as the fittingly Williamsburg-eque audience made their way into the streets, relishing in the epic affair they had owned.
It was clear; people were here for an experience. And that’s what going to see a Beats Antique concert is: a music-based spectacle. If you can be in a comfortable, intimate environment the music becomes much more personal and enjoyable. Perhaps not something you’d be up for every day, but definitely something worth checking out. The magic of being transfixed by a Beats Antique performance is certainly a night I’ll never forget.
Images courtesy of the author