By ELIZABETH PFEFFER
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Squarepusher, James Murphy + Pat Mahoney + Nancy Whang DJ set, The Antlers, Zola Jesus, Shabazz Palaces, Teen Daze, HEALTH, New Pants + Feng Mengbo's Bruce Lee VJ Project, The Hundred in the Hands
March 17, 2012
Fort Mason Center
Better than: Spending St. Patrick's Day in the Marina without Karen O.
You know a band has been out of the spotlight for too long when its live show feels like a reunion concert and it never broke up. That's the worst thing there is to say about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performance at the Fort Mason Center Saturday, the band's first appearance in the Bay Area since 2009. The steamy post-punk-pre-cum trio of Karen O, Nick Zinner, and Brian Chase has been off pursuing individual projects, but they reunited onstage to play some old hits for the Creators Project, a free-of-charge traveling high-tech carnival of artists and musicians curated by Vice and underwritten by Intel. Judging by the reaction Ms. O's first distorted moan drew from the crowd when she slinked onstage in a sequined zebra cape and cracked-out doll makeup, "nostalgic" doesn't always mean negative.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs love this city, where they filmed the video for "Zero," the first single off their most recent album It's Blitz! "I'd like to dedicate this song to motherfucking San Francisco," Ms. O screamed out before starting into the 2003 breakout hit "Maps," whose siren-like guitar intro and thudding drums are iconic to the band. She ended the song with the mic to her heart (of course she did) and finished up with the synthy "Heads Will Roll," also off It's Blitz!, just after a rogue audience member jumped onstage and forced her into a very bro-ey shake-and-back-pat. Evidently the silly drunkard was thrown off the stage and into the VIP area, where he enjoyed free drinks for the rest of the night.
It's worth noting the female performers rocked pretty hard at this festival: spitting out water at people, writhing around, and getting up the courage to stage dive. Pint-sized singer Zola Jesus paced around the stage like a tiger in a cage looking for a steak dinner or an escape route. She climbed on the speakers, hopped down, broke into something best described as a white girl tribal dance, and flew into the crowd. An impressive showing for the super-tiny electro-goth girl, who was shrouded in her winged white dress more so than wearing it. One thing was obvious as she belted out her more subdued "Sea Talk" -- whether or not you're feeling Zola Jesus' music, Zola herself is.
Creators Project wouldn't be a tech-focused endeavor without a major electronica force. Aside from James Murphy and about three-quarters of LCD Soundsystem hitting the decks for a DJ set at the end of the night, the UK's Tom Jenkinson, better known as Squarepusher, gave his first U.S. performance in close to a decade. Now, for fans of the genre, Squarepusher is tops. For those who aren't as familiar, his song (songs?) may have sounded like robotic whales mating at a drag race. Some people may have spent much of the time trying to determine which part of their body was vibrating hard enough to make them nauseous. Some people definitely wore sunglasses to shield their eyes from the blinding light emanating from his podium, his stage, and his person. Dressed in a futuristic welding mask and never uttering a word, Squarepusher communicated strictly through light and sound. Whatever he was saying, it charged directly through the ears and eyes and went into a part of the brain nobody knows a word for yet. For some people, it was really fucking beautiful, for others, it probably sounded like "beep beep boop."
Ultra low-key Brooklyn band The Antlers' sweet afternoon performance offered a nice respite from a synth-heavy lineup. There was no theme for the festival other than technology, art, and music colliding on a couple of piers next to the Golden Gate Bridge. A 40-foot by 40-foot "technocratic being" called Origin welcomed attendees, pulsing light and sound in one of the most immersive art experiences San Francisco has ever seen. Between that and a room made of David Bowie, you couldn't really ask for more from a free show.
Personal bias: I would rather be anywhere than drinking green beer out of a plastic cup on St. Patrick's Day.
Lame quote of the night: "I did it because my friend jumped on stage before." -- Guy who crashed Yeah Yeah Yeahs show.