By Julia Reidy; photo by Ben Grad
As the floor shook steadily underfoot 50 feet back from the stage upstairs at the Masquerade, the crowd got restless. The room was filled with a seething mass of older teens and younger 20-somethings; a full hour had elapsed since Bear In Heaven’s abnormally early set concluded (much to my disappointment) and people were beginning to get antsy.
With the floorboards rippling underneath, I was reminded forcibly of a large ship, all of us trapped as it swayed. The crowd’s mounting impatience lent a feeling of suspense to the situation; something was building.
When the tension finally filled up and brimmed over, producer Ethan Kath and vocalist Alice Glass took the stage, accompanied by a tour drummer to beef up their raunchy electronic beats with gut-pummeling kick drum. Though the songs proved as kinetic (though dirtier) live as they do on the band’s two LPs, what separated the performance in front of us from the albums had everything to do with the visual. The three humans on stage — armed with their synths and microphones and drum sets — stood between half a dozen or so light towers and plumes of fog machine output.
It was a light show that had no sympathy for your future vision, just as so many shows have none for your hearing. Intermittently, the green or red pinpoint lights would loose their filters and turn blinding, painful white, as confrontational as Glass’s howling and writhing. She climbed the drum kit, the columns, bent double, whined convulsively in to the sea of raised hands in front of her. It was overwhelming; the sweaty bodies, the grinding, soaring techno, the euphoric but aggressive little woman vocalizing directly toward us.
The best thing I learned about the Masquerade though, is that you can go around to the side of the stage if you like, and watch the show from there. Away from the throbbing audience, Crystal Castles was an altogether gentler experience. Glass, who I could now see was dressed demurely in a knee-length black skirt and black blouse, seemed almost to croon, surrounded by clusters of tiny pinpoint lights dancing and jiggling like ’70s educational animations of cells dividing.
From there, hook-heavier numbers amid the wash of anthemic electronica (like “Baptism” from the duo’s April sophomore record Crystal Castles II) could be heard above the cloud of body heat and the stomping of hundreds of dancing feet. They seemed almost to be proselytizing the audience, so spectacular was the sight. And without a doubt, the faces in the crowd revealed they were preaching to the converted.