Times Square on Valentine's Friday; the streets were packed with last minute gift buys and camera flashes aimed at love struck tourists. When I turned onto 44th Street to find an empty block in front of the Emancipator show at the Best Buy Theater I was confused. A little crowd was huddled around the ticket booth full of couples and bored singles trying to decide whether or not to purchase tickets. I shoved my way through to pick up my photo pass, which according to the booth, did not exist. After a series of back and forth struggles I was finally granted access with my loaded Canon, which must have been attached to a security guard magnet. The minute I stepped off the escalator I was traded off by two guards to an uber energetic guy named Billy. Billy apologized for all of the trouble, and helped me run around to find Emancipator's manager who armed me with a green wristband.
I finally wrestled my way through the dancing and light-up hula hoop toting crowd to see the last of ODESZA's
set. The Pacific duo threw down thumping, yet bright beats from their recent free EP, My Friends Never Die
, which included a beautifully original redux of "Somebody That I Used To Know"
. I was beginning to feel like I had fallen into a wormhole that time warped me to a mid-summer, indoor version of Electric Zoo.
Once Star Slinger
swaggered onto the stage, it was like a zap straight to the bowels of the London club scene. The jolly DJ's set ranged from classic Janet Jackson to even further throwbacks like Ella Fitzgerald
. The crowd was swirling in a happy sea of twirling dancers. I guess NYC has some real love for the motherland, cause there ain't no other like a brother from a British mother.
appearance on stage, the theater was suddenly jam packed with latecomers. The ensemble accompanying the Portland, Oregon producer snatched the crowd by their ear drums and ushered them into a hypnotic state. Suddenly, more jaws than booties were dropping to the floor. There was, however, still plenty of raucous ass-shaking to go around, but the trippy swirling nature scenes that were draped behind the talented four-piece had my eyes occupied. From the drummer rocking out under a beam of bright, orange light to the violinist wooing the crowd with his bow, it took everything to remind myself that I was there seeing electronic act. To think this was the same music that has played at Camp Bisco for swarms of fucked up candy kids was unbelievable. Finally, wild screams erupted when Emancipator dropped his spiritual single "Elephant Survival".
The sweaty crowd ushered me out of the show towards coat check, where I turned around to see my old pal Billy who asked me what I was doing. Surprise, surprise, this pain in the ass green wristband was evidently an all access pass and the coat check line exploded with "OH MY GOD" as the two syllables of "backstage" moved out of Billy's mouth. After some encouraging shoves, Billy walked me back to the dressing rooms. Giant camera in hand, I tiptoed inside to find at least 20 people getting their post party started up real quick. I sat down with the ensemble's drummer Colby for a chat. He'd met Emancipator at festivals when Colby played with production duo Two Fresh. Of his experience playing with Emancipator, Colby said, "It's definitely something different from what I'm used to; it's fucking amazing. It opened my eyes to a lot of dynamics in a range of just feeling emotion in music." When I tried to ask what his favorite part of playing was, he responded with a flustered, "Shit...so many. Just the feeling of it; just seeing the crowd getting down and loving what you're doing, and making them feel good. That makes me feel good".
Colby was nice enough to bring me over and introduce me to Doug Appling, the almighty Emancipator. Appling shifted around and stuck his hands in his pockets while I fumbled with my phone, in a feeble attempt to look like I was even remotely prepared for the surprise interview.
"It's a different way to express all the songs live," Appling explained his use of a unique live ensemble. "There are always new ways and more variables. It's more fun, it's more of an honest expression of the music, and that's what I've been trying to produce."
That honest expression definitely shines through despite Appling's humble awe at his own success, from being a 19-year-old with a self-produced first album to performing in Times Square. "I didn't expect it to go anywhere, I didn't expect this at all," he admitted. "This is stuff I made in my bedroom and now we're playing in Times Square. We've come a long way since then, its pretty crazy."
Pretty crazy for me was when our interview had a short intermission brought by Emancipator's manager, who pointed at Appling with the butt end of a giant bottle of Jameson and praised him as a "boss and a half". As I laughed in agreement, a bottle of Stoli made its way into the hands of the interviewer, and in the wise words of Drake, I said "YOLO." The pair chuckled as I nervously snapped a picture of them, and toasted to their momentous and unexpected achievements.
Emancipator (Right) and his manager, Pete