The late night events at TBA operate within a set of opposing forces. The organizers want them to exist as both an art event and as a regular ol’ concert. That can create exciting moments of friction like the Critical Mascara drag competitions or bewildering evenings of cognitive dissonance like their attempts to bring stand up comedy to crowds that didn’t want to sit still or keep quiet.
The event put on by S1 Gallery last night landed somewhere between those two extremes. A combination of live hardware performances from a trio of female-identifying artists and quick DJ sets, the whole affair felt like a state-sponsored rave, an attempt to capture some of the sweaty vibrancy of the S1’s regular evenings of music within the cavernous space of PICA’s warehouse. It didn’t come close but the effort was laudable all the same.
For that, credit must be handed down to the performers on stage. The three acts offered different reflections of the vast prism that is the electronic dance music world, all with a mind towards heady grooves and throbbing energy. They also mirrored the feel of the night, with each set presenting an interesting duality in their sound and presentation. With Portland duo Decorum, that came out through a tug of war happening within the music. As one of the women held down a steady beat, adding little frissons of melody and color to them, the other tossed in little chalk bombs of sound. They should have been intrusive; instead, they kept snapping me back to attention.
The set by Boston-based DJ/producer Isabella was even more unruly. Keeping the entire set aloft were nasty, unrelenting 4/4 kick drum hits, even as the wobbly bass notes and fizzy synth tones crumbled around them. The hard edge she maintained felt great, even as it scraped up against the bodies in the room. But what I couldn’t help but marvel at was the control she exhibited onstage. She bobbed sternly with the music yet she never broke her steely glare on her gear. It was a masterclass in maintaining control amid chaos.
Bay Area artist The Creatrix had the most direct set of the night: a 40-minute spray of colorful techno that vaguely threatened to warp into some early ‘90s ‘ardkore action. Her firm grip on the controls kept everything in the here and now. It somehow felt unbalanced at time, however, as she eased up on the accelerator and introduced elements of noise into the mix. She’s had greater success playing with similar formulae in the past (check out her invigorating Boiler Room set from last year, making this performance feel like an exception rather than the rule.
We'll be blogging about TBA 2018 every day of the fest! Keep up with us at: portlandmercury.com/tba