James Blake @ Tractor Tavern 5.19.11

May 19, 2011
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People packed in like sardines crushed in a tin can at the tractor tavern for the Seattle debute of James Blake. An odd choice in venue for the extremely hyped Englishman who kicked off the expectedly low key set with album opener unluck. Irritating how even in such a small place the crowd can't be respectful enough to shut up. A dull murmur radiates through the room, shattering any sort of atmosphere or tension Blake had hoped to create with his brilliantly crafted crooners.

The band is comprised of Blake and two others, who perform in a way one can only describe as a bio-mechanical. Combining the margin of error from human performance with the digital coldness of electronic drums and synths as Blakes vocal converts to digital via his vocoder. Post-dubstep is not quite a fitting label for the sound as many have deemed, particularly in this setting as there is little to no bass and the elements that stand out are the songs complex rhythms and odd sound architecture.

Blakes minimal atmospherics fall flat through a mediocre PA until "I Never Learnt To Share" which finds a new found ferocity in the live setting as it's repetitive beat and added synths snake like repeater attack bring the Ballard crowd to life. By the third song however the crowd falls silent and obedient. Cast under his spell with the occasional eruption of cheers as the beat rushes in and the whole room sways along in time.

As the show moves along though, it becomes a tough sell. The spaciousness works against him at times, as the crowd drifts in and out of captivation. Distracted by the fairly well lit room and giant f-cking bull skull hanging over the center of the stage. Perhaps a western themed bar was not the prime choice to create a vibe for this extremely forward thinking sound.

In summation, it was ok. Not amazing, not terrible, just ok. Mostly not at the fault of the performer, or the venue, or the crowd. It was just a combination of things that threw the vibe. Hopefully he'll be back soon at a more fitting spot like the Croc, or Neumos where we can lose ourselves in the sound the way we did with the album.
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