Tortoise, Mouse on Mars Stubb's, June 12

Live Shots

Tortoise, Mouse on Mars

Stubb's, June 12

Everything stopped except the ping-pang of the mallets. A storm of crystal droplets emanated from the vibes onstage as Tortoise's John McEntire and John Herndon went tête-à-tête during the storied Chicagoans' trademark "Djed," producing a grand metronomic symphony. The sky itself seemed to feel the natural beauty of the gorgeous tones, as a much-needed breeze swept down over Stubb's outdoor crowd and wiped away any heat remaining from opener Mouse on Mars' furious electro-funk workout. The bouncy German tag team of Andi Toma on bass and Jan St. Werner on keyboards hit a furious lock-step groove and relentlessly explored it for over an hour, the duo demonstrating the spiced-up savvy one might expect from a group identified with a genre known as Intelligent Dance Music. That said, it was Mouse on Mars' endlessly entertaining drummer Dodo Nkishi who stole the show with his high-pitched vocal stabs and heavy-octane electric pulse. The afro'd Nkishi played slave to Mouse's skin-tight rhythm, it being no mean feat to physically translate the group's wicked groove to the stage while simultaneously crowing a string of broken phrases in a funk-fried dialect not even James Brown could decipher. It was intelligent, all right, St. Werner knowing exactly which variety of squelching squawk to insert and when. As for dance, Toma certainly had that down, hammering his pedal-treated bass as he bounced up and down at a near-pogo stick rate. The sheer physicality of Mouse on Mars' groove revealed the brainier IDM outfits as charlatans who lack the almighty "D." It's that same almighty "D" that marks Tortoise's live show, a double-barreled drum attack that comes across more directly than on their trickier studio outings. After dissonant opener "Seneca" peeled away layers of preconception, the post-rock kings of noodly groove joined together in handclaps before entering the classical stomp & roll beat of the Rick Wakeman-esque "Blackjack." It wasn't until the Millions Now Living Will Never Die material, however, that Tortoise really started lighting some intrigue. A juxtaposed, dub-heavy "Djed" reprise started an inspiring run that included maximum-malleted Steve Reich homage "Ten-Day Interval" and the spaghetti western-flavored "I Set My Face to the Hillside," and culminated in an electric frenzy of bass scrapes, marimba plinks, and spontaneously heavy voltage that left the overhead lights a-flickering. "I'd like to thank," said keyboardist Dan Bitney at set's end, "the Austin sky!"

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