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all words: Leila Mays
all photos:
Julian Vu

I was really looking forward to this show, and gorgeously eerie electronic dubstep artist Balam Acab did not disappoint.  This was also my first time seeing a show at the DIY performance space that is Subterranean A and I found it to be warm and inviting.
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The two opening acts, Happy Family and Run DMT are from Baltimore.  Will Pesta is Happy Family (and sometimes Inflatable Mattress) on Wigflip Records.  I missed Happy Family’s set, unfortunately.  Run DMT is Michael Collins, who creates some great experimental electronica sounds (on Culture Dealer).  Although I fully enjoy every Run DMT recording I have listened to, in this performance the sound was more harsh and noisy than the washed out, dreamy recordings.  Also, he had a few false starts for some of his songs because of setup issues, but he had some funny banter in between.

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Run DMT urged us go to his website http://www.culturedealer.com to send him lyrics which he will then use to write you a song poem, record it, and release it on cassette tape.  He finished his set with an example of poem song in which the submitted lyrics were made of up from the first line of the each writer’s first album review blog post.  Someone in the front of the audience held up his sheet of notebook paper with the lyrics as he performed this long and peculiar song which cycled between a pop feel to a slow dirge.  Even though Run DMT had a confusing and unimpressive live performance, I still highly recommend checking out his recordings.

After Run DMT and while Balam Acab was setting up, there was an impromptu stand up set from a young comic.  I’d say the crowd was maybe halfway into him.  He didn’t get heckled, so that’s got to be good.

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Balam Acab is Alec Koone from Brooklyn, NY and he released his first full length album Wander, Wonder on Tri Angle Records less than three months ago.   He is touring with a lovely singer, Morgan Elizabeth, who does an excellent job of recreating, even more beautifully, the vocals from the album. With a carefully crafted electronic sound collage album as beautiful as Wander, Wonder it’s hard to know how it will be live.  Balam Acab’s music has a certain flow and a feeling of continuous motion to it, and it was great to see them visibly very present in moment of the loud, enveloping sound they created.  The best moments in Balam Acab’s performance were when they were both singing and there was a great interplay, layering, and depth of emotion. This added a dimension to the music different from the recorded versions of the songs with pitched vocals.
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The audience was happy and appreciative throughout the show.  “I love you guys,” someone yelled, and Morgan said back, “no, we love you guys, really.”  She was quite genuine.  Before they started their set Alec said he got dressed up to come to DC because he thought he was going to see the government.  A bunch of people yelled out sentiments along the lines of- it wasn’t worth seeing anyway.  A guy yelled out “Balam Acab” after a few of the songs and Alec said it should be ObamAcab because we’re in DC.  So after every song thereafter a few people yelled ObamAcab instead.

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They played “Apart,” “Motion,” “Expect,” and “Oh, Why” from the new release, “See Birds” from his EP, and also two new songs which sounded great. They finished their set with my favorite track from Wander, Wonder: “Oh, Why.”  I have been obsessed with this song from when I first heard it on a BBC radio podcast with guest DJ Jon Hopkins making selections.  I couldn’t help but rewinding the podcast to hear “Oh, Why” again and again.   It is an exquisite, eerie track which you will find yourself humming for days.  Once the vocal portions of the song were finished, they said thanks and good night and left the performance area while letting the rest of track play out (about a minute).

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