As a Bay Area musician, it can sometimes feels like you’re the only one in your chosen niche. Doesn’t matter if you’re a high-energy dance house DJ, a progressive rocker in an eight-piece band with brass sections and walls of keyboards, or just part of a folksy acoustic duo with a banjo and an acoustic guitar. You can easily look around and feel like, “wow, we must be the only ones doing this.”
Some of it is that bookers in SF often think of shows in terms of simple one-hour slots to fill, without much regard for how the bands fit together. Slap together a DJ with a prog rocker and an acoustic duo, and call it a show.
Other times, it’s just that the local music scene isn’t very well-connected. In towns like Nashville and Austin, a group like Balanced Breakfast seems obvious. Of course local musicians get together every month to talk and collaborate. How else can the scene survive? But in SF, groups like BB are truly rare and special. Music networking at a local level is scarce and difficult to find.
That’s why it’s heartwarming to see a brand-new event like StarCrash explode onto the scene. It’s a new concert series hosted by local sparkly vocalist, pop songwriter, synth player, and sometimes-promoter Remi Barrett. This brand-new event happens every third Thursday at DNA Lounge. I found it to be a thoughtfully organized, expertly themed night of electropop music. Don’t be deceived by the vague booking. It’s billed with taglines that sound more like lyrics to songs rather than descriptions of an event: a “soiree from the other side of space,” a “cosmic collision with destiny,” a “prismatic panoply of musicians and creators.”
What I saw at the debut was an unusually well-ordered group of electronic artists, playing a consistent brand of dark, synth-y, mostly-danceable electropop that escalated from mellow to fully amped as the night progressed. Remi booked this weekday night on a small stage like it was the next Lighting In A Bottle. She grouped bands and DJs together in a flow that felt natural, exciting, and made you want to block your third Thursdays indefinitely on the calendar.
The night started with the mellow, ethereal sounds of Containher. She’s a solo DJ and singer, playing an earnest electronic sound that felt sometimes industrial, other times more muted and understated. Her own beautiful soprano vocals float over the whole thing in long, sweeping notes. It’s liftoff music, for sure.
After that was Host Bodies. They took the performance up a step in energy, with a custom lighting kit that dazzled the crowd (so rare in local shows). Out of all the acts there, this duo of dudes felt the trendiest, the most in-line with what I’m seeing out at the big electronic music festivals. Think expertly suave lead guitar, layered over enthusiastic dance-y electronic, punctuated by the occasional hip hop and live drumming. It was like Tycho, with raps.
Remi’s own project Vice Reine came out next. I love this trio. I’ve loved them ever since my own group Great Highway first played with them a couple years back. The songs are catchy as f*ck. You cannot, not dance. And Remi’s exceptional stage presence is a big piece of it. She’s all fashion and glitter and dark makeup, a tall and magical gypsy creature in the center of a maze of wires and black boxes. But even her two co-conspirators to either side, who unobtrusively and calmly navigate the maze with her, contribute to a feeling like this whole thing is a hologram being beamed in from the distant future. Also, there’s always a mysterious glowing globe somewhere. One of these days, I’ll remember to ask them what the deal is with that globe.
Sophia Prise headlined, and in the spirit of full honesty, I wasn’t able to catch her full set. The very-uncool 40-year-old writing this post had a Thursday bedtime, and I rarely have the energy for four bands in a row. As an audience member, I might criticize this for being one of the only things wrong with StarCrash #1: the length of the show was ambitious. But as a local musician, it’s hard to find fault in Remi for wanting to pack it in with as many truly talented electronic rockers as possible. They all deserved a place on that stage.
If you’ve never seen Sophia Prise, follow her on social media and catch her next show. You won’t be disappointed. Her high-energy and stylish jams mix traditional polished, clean house music with a darker, witchy element that matches her unusually beautiful vocals, often layered with lush and unexpected harmonies.
Overall, StarCrash was a big success. The house was packed. The energy was great. Each of these artists had a dedicated and loving fan base that came out in full force. I think this series is going to blast off like a rocket, and I even wonder if it’s going to outgrow that room over time. A technical glitch here and there during the sets made me speculate that the whole thing would’ve benefited from a sound system more accommodating to a variety of electronic sub-genres and sounds, like the ones presented Thursday night. But DNA is definitely where the hip kids with the LED lights hang out. And these musicians were repping that culture hard. This was the kind of concert where a geek like me looks around and goes, “ohhhh, THIS is where the cool people dance these days!”