Masquerade, Tampa • 2.16.98
Michael D. Fellows
Having missed Crystal Method twice this past year due to being out of town, and crying for days after BT called in sick for Big Top this past year at the Florida State Fairgrounds, I really was looking forward to seeing two key artists in the ever-emerging electronica scene. Taking place on a Monday night did not stop the all ages crowd from selling out the Masquerade, a feat earlier done by contemporaries The Orb and The Chemical Brothers, but they were held on weekend nights. So this was quite a accomplishment to bring out so many people on a rainy, windy weeknight.
Starting promptly at 9 PM, BT (aka Brian Transeau) took the stage to little fanfare. The Maryland native and classically trained pianist seemed more into the music than the crowd. It was sad, really, as in Europe he packs fields and valleys of people waiting to hear his wonderful mix of classic house music. Maybe people were there just to see the Method and not him, but I thought it was disrespectful for people just to stand there and gawk at him like he was not even there. He gave it his all, and his sweat pouring down on us was enough to prove that. He opened his only 30-minute set with a heavily mixed version of “Flaming June,” which melded into “Remember” and “Love, Peace, & Grease.” He was accompanied by a very talented percussionist, who had at his disposal some congas, snares, hi-hats, and cowbells. He was very energetic, and he and BT were totally in synch the whole set. He played a few older songs as well, such as “Quark,” before leaving the stage to somewhat low cheers. People around us complained it was too short, and that he was better in the Kissimmee rave that took place several months ago. I was just pleased to see him and hear his great new material from his album ESCM, which is on my best of 97 list.
After a hour of mostly droning house music that was not even being mixed live by a DJ, Crystal Method appeared from under a heavy cloud of smoke and lights.
Scott Kirkland walked on, hit a few buttons, and the familiar introduction of “Trip Like I Do” filled the packed dance floor of people eager to sweat and groove for hours. With Ken Jordan at the mixing deck, soon the infamous beat of the song had begun, and the crowd exploded. We had made the mistake of positioning ourselves close to the stage and close to Scott, who claims to love the music of Martin L. Gore (of Depeche Mode), and also has admitted to being trained on guitar by Mark Slaughter (’80s hair band leader), so for some part of the evening we had to closely watch the stage, as we did not want his keyboard stand to fall on us as he was tossing the heavy synth as if it were a guitar. Scott picked up the synth several times and leaned it back and forth, teetering on the edge of the stage. He played it standing up, he played on his knees, he played it upside down, I have never seen a keyboard get that much abuse. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see two musicians who most definitely love their music, provide so much energy. Perhaps it was to squash the rumor that all techno artists just sit and fiddle with buttons for several hours. Scott and Ken were definitely playing it live, it was not some preprogrammed set list, it was mixed live as well, to provide further nuances to their ever-expanding catalog. I was happy to hear them play some older material as well, such as the song “Now Is The Time,” and the classic “Keep Hope Alive” — each song was performed with such drive, it brought even more aliveness to their performance.
The Rolling Rock beer they were drinking must have had some effect. The only disappointment I had was again, the length of their set, running at only an hour. The crowd was dazed and somewhat pissed, ready for some more. But alas, they did not come on again, and the roadies had begun to take down the setup in a few minutes. Maybe because it was an all-ages show, they thought the kids should be home by midnight, but I for one would have loved to have danced till 2 at least. Not saying that the show was a total disappointment. I was halfway drenched with sweat. When are the Chemicals coming back in town?