For history buffs and techno fans in search of a unique evening out, San Francisco’s Independent theater hosted The New Deal last Friday and Saturday, and the group will tour through the Western states in the coming month. The Toronto-based electronic trio, which self-identifies as “acid jazz,” has been active since the late ‘90s, but they remain relatively obscure on the West Coast.
While the group chose for its eponym a series of legislation that resulted in an unprecedented shift of political power to the federal government, there’s nothing particularly unprecedented about this New Deal’s music. The concert consisted of catchy, fun but thoroughly unoriginal dance music — the kind of techno that compares to what I imagine Mario Kart would sound like on steroids.
The group opened with a bang. The performance of their first song included flashing purple lights, instrumental solos from real-life, in-the-flesh bassist Dan Kurtz and drummer Darren Shearer and throbbing beats. I’ve never seen the “Tron” movies, but that’s what my friend invoked when trying to describe the sound of the opening number. Their music is manic, and the atmosphere evokes a wild, overgrown rager with 20- and 30-somethings pounding shots and grinding.
It was almost impossible to differentiate between songs. There was no vocalist to provide lyrical cues. The light show was constantly evolving. The songs carefully blended into one another. The music rarely let up, providing for few windows of softness in a whirlwind of hard-hitting hypersonic beats, leaving only brief opportunities for the ‘80s babies in front of me to freak dance tenderly with their lovers. The long stretches of screeching madness, however, allowed plenty of time for us single folk to hop up and down Like Mike.
The concert felt more like a party than an artistic performance, but perhaps the most redeeming quality of The New Deal’s music is its playful sound. Many similarly-paced techno shows would be overwhelming, but the group’s experimentation with ‘80s and pop-y sounds — particularly tunes reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper and Aqua — as well as its emphasis on live instrumental solos, makes it more accessible to House music neophytes than other artists.
The venue’s overall atmosphere was fun and personal, with the trio actively engaging the crowd in a compelling mix of live and pre-recorded electronic material. While the concert was practically tailored to millennials, those seeking something catchy to dance to or an adventurous night out in the city could do much worse.
Contact Grace Culhane at [email protected].