Electron ends Fall Tour at Syracuse’s Westcott Theater

I still maintain Syracuse is a weird city, but they got one hell of a show at the Westcott on Saturday October 18. For fans of live-tronic music, this was the show to catch. The bill featured three bands (all instrumental) leading up to Electron, making for an impressive five hours of music. The night opened with Ocupanther, who got fans moving with their intricate but danceable compositions, featuring smooth rhythm sections and weaving guitar/synth parts on top. Ocupanther is always a treat because they are unique—not just progressive scales, not just untz beats—but truly original sounds put together in an organic, funky way. Up next was Horizon Wireless, who laid down smooth beats that were subtle but sexy and often trance inducing. Horizon has a warm sound that just makes you feel good, relying more on the groove than huge peaks or changes. This was almost a direct contrast with Solaris, who took the stage next and threw down heavy beats that really brought the energy back up a notch as the room began to fill in. Ithaca’s Solaris is a one-two punch, first they get you in the zone with beats that are predominantly electronic and then they mix in moments of sheer rock and roll dirtiness. By the end of the set everyone was moving and ready to go.

Photo by: Andy Hill at Catskill Chill 2014 – Electron

Electron, to put it bluntly, is essentially a Disco Biscuits cover band that plays Biscuits’ songs better than the Biscuits. This is not at all a bad thing, or meant to discredit the original incarnation(s) of Bisco—they are the ones who did it first after all, and they have a chemistry that cannot be replicated—but rather to highlight the similarities and areas of improvement. This crossover is no secret; the night’s set list featured mainly Bisco songs, all of which were tight and on-point. Throughout the tour Electron also covered a different band each night, including The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. Friday’s two-set show added Radiohead to that list, with solid covers of “Karma Police” and “National Anthem,” before ending the night with Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage into Eclipse for an encore.

The set opened with the classic, “Floodlights” and moved into another time-tested favorite, “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” which had fans new and old singing along. Brownie held it down on the bass [as he does] showing a revitalized energy I had not seen since years previous. There is no doubt that Brownie drives the band, both with his relentless bobble-head and groove-heavy lines with sneaky bombs – his excitement was contagious. Lotus drummer, Mike Greenfield, was also a true joy to watch and blends perfectly with Brownie and the Electron formula. The argument of Sammy Vs. Allen actually kind of finds resolution in the middle with Mike Greenfield; he has the intensity and (almost) technical precision of Allen, with the feel and taste of Sammy. Personally, I never took a side on the drummer comparisons because I liked both for different reasons. That said, Greenfield is the ipso facto peace-maker that would ultimately satisfy both sides of the debate. On the keys, Magner seemed a little more subdued than his role with Bisco, but still served as the essential binding factor. All of Magner’s parts were, though not extravagant, especially important. He really only let it rip a couple of times, mainly towards the end of the second set with “Shelby Rose” but quite frankly, I think I prefer it that way. The real standout of the night for me, however, was Tom Hamilton on guitar. I had heard Hamilton play in recordings of Brothers Past, American Babies and with Marco, but had never seen him live. Simply put, he won me over. I came into the show not knowing much about Hamilton and left a Hamilton fan. Each guitar line was clean and tasteful, but when he decided to rip it, his chops really shone through. Even in songs where his parts were simpler, Hamilton has a calm sort of confidence that is super entertaining to watch and appears to inspire the band to consistently play to the top of their ability. All in all, this show was spot-on musically; a real treat for Biscuits fans, and the band’s chemistry was a pleasure to watch.

Syracuse’s show marked the end of Electron’s mini-tour, but Brownstein and Magner will be back with Conspirator, another side project which is more heavily improvisation and jam based, on November 20.

Set 1: Floodlights, MEMPHIS, Kamaole, Humu ending, Grass is Green end, Plan B, Karma Police*, Plan B
Set 2: National Anthem*, Little Lai, Humuhumu, Kamaole ending, Shelby Rose, the City, Shelby Rose
Encore: Brain Damage, Eclipse