Contributing Writer : Jason Turgeon
Contributing Photographer (Still & Video) : Joseph McGonegal
BASSNECTAR—11/10/09—Paradise Rock Club
Trying to explain a Bassnectar concert is a little bit like trying to explain an earthquake or your first kiss. Bassnectar is a whole-body experience, one that leaves you shaking, sweaty, heart pounding with eyes glazed over, and if you survive, you’re damn near delirious with happiness at being alive. Because if you connect with Lorin Ashton—and you’ll know within about 3 seconds of that first bass note if you do or if you don’t—then that thick, raw bassline is like a direct line into your brain. And what Ashton and his occasional co-conspirators are telling you from behind the decks is that dancing can save the world.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask the dozens of ticketless kids who have gathered four hours before show time in front of Boston’s sold out Paradise Rock Club literally begging, pleading, groveling for a way in on Tuesday—Tuesday!—night. Ask the bouncer, escorting an overwhelmed college coed out of the building after the bassline has grabbed her and lifted her body onstage just 10 minutes into the show, blind to the fact that this might end her night a bit earlier than she’d hoped. Ask our intrepid photographer, mumbling curses under his breath as he hops up and sits on the bar, wedging himself into a corner. He tries and fails to get a stable shot in the one place where he had hoped to find refuge from the swaying, trembling, pulsating masses long enough to squeeze off a shot, but it is hopeless. Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” is bouncing off the walls, Ian MacKaye is screaming “Everybody’s Moving/Everything is Moving/Moving, Moving, Moving” and he has never been so right. This room is positively alive.
Not twenty minutes into the show, every inch of available floor space is packed and the room is vibrating with bass that lifts my blue cowboy hat up and down with every note. Six hundred fifty lucky souls are moving in one giant orgiastic assembly to that ear-threatening, life-affirming sonic thunder, and not one of them would rather be anywhere else on the planet. The venue is far too small for a man of this talent, this draw, and everyone inside knows they are experiencing something special, an intimate experience they might not get another chance to see as Mr. Ashton moves towards worldwide dance dominance. This crowd, with its multiple mohawks, unsubtle tinge of days without showers, multicolored hair and aggressively colored clothing, is dancing as if their collective life depended on it, and in truth, it just might.
Because Bassnectar is no ordinary dance music. This is music with a purpose, music with an agenda, music that kicks Bob Dylan’s wrinkled old ass and says stand aside, son, there’s a new sheriff in town. Bassnectar is not really playing to make us dance. This music exists to make us think, to make us remember what it is to be alive, to engender the spirit of revolution that Dylan channeled 45 years ago and twist it, turn it, spin it and scratch it for a new generation that is so overexposed to media that no message has a chance of breaking through unless it is accompanied by a true sonic boom.
Bassnectar provides that boom, turns up the bass until it vibrates my blue cowboy hat up and off of my head, never to be seen again, then turns up the madness. Who else would—who else could?—open a fourth of July set with Saul Williams’ “Pledge to Resist” and then lead into Noam Chomsky reading under a background of flying bombers spreading their filth? Who else could play 5 sets in 2 days at Burning Man and still leave the assembled freakshow gasping, begging for more amidst rumors of a Monday morning sixth set swirling in the dust even as we began to dismantle Black Rock City? Who else would casually drop Fugazi on the assembled masses on a Tuesday night, layering their telling lyrics [But I won't sit idly by/I'm planning a big surprise/I'm gonna fight/For what I want to be] over that merciless beat?
The dancing is merely a side effect to having your brain plugged in, the bass is the conduit to clear through all the mental clutter and remind you that you are alive, goddamnit, and that like Fugazi and Lorin Ashton and Saul Williams, you are not ready to give in without a fight.
Do something good for yourself and experience Bassnectar. Start with a sampling of the new record COZZA FRENZY and find a way to thrust yourself to a live show.
Website – www.bassnectar.net/