Friday Night: Meat Beat Manifesto at the Independent
December 5, 2008
Review by Tamara Palmer, Photos by Tim Pratt
Better than: Concerts that take place in one dimension
Download: The unreleased Meat Beat Manifesto song "Bush of Lies"
At the nerve center of Meat Beat Manifesto is its creator and vision pilot, Jack Dangers, a British expatriate who has lived in the Bay Area for 14 of MBM's 21-year history. While in England, the band developed a reputation for cutting-edge hybrid sounds that helped lay the blueprint for much of the electronic music that followed, whether with an industrial bent like Nine Inch Nails (who often opened for MBM) or electro-rock leaners such as the Chemical Brothers. Whether techno, jungle, or even newer microstyles like dubstep, MBM is often cited as a structural influence.
Once in the Bay Area, Dangers and MBM became more infatuated with the technology bug and started experimenting with the visual dimension. Mixing video images in time with the music helped to flesh out the sonic concepts that were often anchored by samples from a wide array of cinematic and televised sources.
And while the band has employed this A/V concept for a while, this was the most seamless and stimulating presentation yet, a dizzying jam featuring two projection screens illuminating a motley crew of guest stars, not the least of which included Robert DeNiro, Stevie Wonder and Barack Obama to Lee "Scratch" Perry, Harrison Ford and Heaven's Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite.
Dangers and Mark Pistel gazed into laptops while Ben Stokes controlled the video mixing and Lynn Farmer matched and enhanced some ever-complex beats. MBM released the Autoimmune album this year, but it was just a small part of the set selection and not a blatant play to push records. Rather, there was a great balance of old and new, sometimes in the same brilliant arrangement. A classic tune like "Helter Skelter" was given equal billing with slept-on B-Sides like "It's the Music," where tribal drums nestle around a crazy anti-music and drugs speech from the late televangelist Jimmy Swaggert).
Dangers even took to the microphone to perform some of the earliest cuts like "Storm the Studio." Many later songs just find him using vocal textures rather than words, and it was fun to see him hum chords and other little personal touches. There were also some brilliant video-led interludes, the most arresting of which was a montage of various campy '80s horror film scenes of exploding heads and severed brains, all edited with the expected cheeky flair.
A solo producer that splits time between SF, Brooklyn and Berlin, opener Dub Gabriel stood behind his computer, occasionally pumping his fist to the beat. But he definitely caught us by surprise and kicked it up a notch right at the end of his set when he did a rock star jump in the air and ripped off his shirt, clutching his controller and proving that these guys take the bass to heart.
Personal bias: MBM has been a musical favorite for almost half my life.
Random detail: Dub Gabriel had a nice skateboard for sale at the merch table.
By the way: Look for a new release next year from Tino Corp, the animatronic Cuban bandleader programmed by MBM's Dangers and Stokes.