Escort – Disco
I was originally planning on catching Holly Herndon in the Diana Wortham Theatre after Craig Leon. After all, fave entertainment site The Quietus had held her in high esteem as a cutting edge artist and that was good enough for me, but frankly, when I sampled her wares in the iTunes Store, I quickly fled. My tolerance for random noise was nil at that point, and besides, I had grown up listening to the original random noise from the 70s! Her music had failed my “Index Of Metals” test; which is to say, that if a composition is more abstract and diffuse than the second side of Fripp and Eno’s “Evening Star,” then it has reached the point of no return with my ears. That’s as far out as I’m willing to go. Especially in my dotage.
So after I sampled the full list of Moofgest acts in the last hours before the event, I noted that Escort were a solid sounding band doing nice things with Disco. Not my favorite thing, but maybe I should give them a chance. I got to the club around 9:20. Strangely enough, a women asked me where I had seen Simple Minds as I entered the club; the second conversation sparked by my t-shirt that night within 30 minutes. Usually only my Revillos concert shirts garnered such comments. The Asheville Music Hall was a cozy club that comfortably held about 350 I’d wager. Since I’m a tall guy, I like to let women and those shorter than me in general get in the front, especially at a club where the stage is only inches above the floor. I settled in about half the floor back.
I saw the band members setting up and the club eventually filled up to a full capacity. Then they started playing and it was like being present at the point in space where lightning bolts were striking. Repeatedly! It was ferocious and electric! The band were more than just good, they were phenomenal! Vocalist Adeline Michéle was pulling double duty on bass guitar and the seven piece compact configuration of this normally 17 piece “disco orchestra” were slaying all in earshot on the tiny Asheville Music Hall stage!
In the very first number it was apparent that the band had made a careful study of the complete output of the holy Ze Records since they were nailing Mutant Disco to the wall and making us all beg for mercy! The taut, funky, disco they proffered was tough and urban. It was by no means sweet or girly even though three women were singing. The two backing vocalists offered elegance with each pose or evocative hand gesture, but Ms. Michéle, in contrast, was a ferocious siren of urban grit; flirting with a bluntness that was powerfully liberating.
The rest of the band were simply a drummer, guitarist, keyboards, and the secret weapon – a percussionist on congas and devices. The room sound was a gift from the bass gods that evening, with a clean, full, musical sound for our listening enjoyment. Every nuance of the tight music was clearly and powerfully delivered in the sweaty, packed room of people frankly going nuts! It was apparent from the very beginning that this was no ordinary Moogfest set being delivered. This was transcendence.
Escort were connecting with the audience immediately and on a profound level that we all recognized. This in turn, spurred the band onward most effectively. I was in the middle of a rare “I can’t believe that I’m at the most exciting place in the universe” moment. And so, it seemed, were several hundred other people. Unlike every set I had seen thus far, no one walked out of that front door! About five songs in, Ms. Michéle quipped that “this next one is our last song,” and quickly let us in on the joke.
When the end of their set did in fact arrive, as it eventually had to, the sustained roar of approval from the audience coaxed a further three encore songs from the band, who seemed genuinely surprised by the ardor of their audience. The last number played was a great cover of “Tainted Love,” sounding nothing like the Coil or Soft Cell versions that I was familiar with. And then it was really over. By this time the audience finally began to filter out of the club, but not before synth player Eugene Cho took some photos of the audience as seen below.
Ms. Michéle then sat down on the stage, surrounded by fans and well-wishes as I couldn’t help but notice a police officer in the still crowded club taking a head count with a hand counter. Sensing that I might never get a chance to talk to her, I noticed the keyboardist breaking down his synths and I took the effort to tell him that Escort had managed to convince me that it was actually 1981 and that they were the hottest thing on Ze Records, which he totally got and appreciated. I later discovered that Mr. Cho had started the band with Dan Balis, so it was good that I spoke to him directly.
I then lost composure and started babbling in crude vernacular that we avoid on PPM since it was all I could do not to melt into a pool of jelly at that point. Having shaken Mr. Cho’s hand and spoken my piece, I then made my way out of the club and saw the huge queue of people waiting to enter as I made my way, stunned, to the Civic Center basement for Museum of Love, due to begin playing in minutes. I thought to myself en route that I had just seen the 21st century equivalent to a 1981 Material gig with Nona Hendryx. Yes, it was that awesome.
Next: …Serendipity strikes again!