Published Mar 09, 2011John MacLean is an odd individual. The New Hampshire resident, who started producing as the Juan MacLean after his band Six Finger Satellite fell out of orbit, spun fun and funky records with a deadpan disposition, broken by furtive glances up from the decks that betray his nerves. Occasionally, his track selection rode the disco-cheese line a little too closely, crossing the threshold with a regrettable remix of "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc. The more compelling tracks focused more on minimal beats and incomprehensible micro edits.
For the most part, MacLean's mixing was smooth. Plus, it was refreshing to see that, aside from the odd CD, he was actually spinning vinyl. Simian Mobile Disco are renowned analog lovers, so MacLean's wax was a reasonable choice to fill in between their set and the impressive opening act Blondes, a young Brooklyn duo who, armed with a load of Korg gear, created a deceptive live mix of broken beats resolving to pounding yet playful house.
Simian Mobile Disco know how to put on an electronic music show. Also known as London duo James Ford and James Shaw, their mastery of on-the-fly processing made for a balanced sound with well-executed transitions between songs. The pair teased out every epic build-up to maximize dance-floor frenzy, and then always landed on four-to-the-floor beats so heavy they nearly fell on one another. Their constant, enthusiastic head bobbing showed that they felt every beat inside and out.
It was a real treat to hear all that warm analog gear humming away without a laptop in sight. It makes this music that much more immediate and exciting, knowing they aren't checking their email up there and that it could all go wrong at any moment. By the nature of this gear, it forced them to take chances.
Pair that with their visuals -- a lighting rig featuring a floor-to-ceiling honeycomb rainbow that was so pulverizing it could give a Pokémon seizures -- and you had all the tools for a wicked club experience.