Considering the quality of act, Darkstar’s Button Factory entry fee is more than reasonable. No ticket price is reasonable enough though, we’d suggest, to spend the entire duration of a gig chattering at the back, trying to re-enact the Harlem Shake with just three people in the bar area, or posing and screaming hilariously at the duck-faced picture you’ve recently snapped in the very front row whilst flaunting your ‘amusingly’ jaunty-angled bobble hat.
Darkstar’s sound, in fact, seems to lie depressingly low on the list of a large number of gig attendees priorities. Their pre-finale pause is greeted by voluminous chatter that can no doubt be heard comfortably from the stage, which is particularly shocking given the moody electronic outfit’s fantastically intense display at a near sold-out Workman’s Club on their last trip to Dublin.
This trip features new album ‘News From Nowhere’ (in heavy doses, in fact), an apparently mushroom-fuelled dive into the wacky world of experimental synth and percussion backed by a relative big boy in new label Warp. It’s supposed to be Darkstar’s breakthrough from the underground; they’re never going to be a radio play act, but at the same time, it could be reasonably expected that tonight’s date might garner some serious interest. The problem the band continues to have – the same one that seems them consistently struggle as relative unknowns amongst the festival big boys – is this is the kind of music that requires moody intensity and audience focus, and turning down The Button Factory’s lights isn’t going to cut it.
Not that it’s the bands fault. Technically they’re flawless, with muffled vocals fading hauntedly into a mix that’s amped up with live digital percussion and flows in a way that’s half dancefloor, half dingy basement throbbing. Tracks from ‘News From Nowhere’ dominate, though the likes of Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer and Need You are dropped happily into the blend, squeezing their unique brand of ‘wonky dubstep’ (trademark Pitchfork.com) with subtler shades of blended rhythms.
In many ways, Darkstar are the kind of heavy electronic act that require thinking – they’re slow paced and not as immediate as many of their contemporaries, amongst which they’re bizarrely filed as ‘dubstep’ (insert dubstep fans screaming about the drop here), and underneath all that funky texture there really is some thought to be found in those lyrics. Then there’s the live set up – imitating the basement scene that they emerged as lauded kings of, the band seem determined to use a lighting arrangement that draws attention away from them and onto the action down the front, with vocalist James Buttery’s long-haired outline the enduring image.
Like its predecessor ‘North’, ‘News From Nowhere’ – which features almost in its entirety tonight – is capable (under the right circumstances) of delivering a truly stunning live experience. Sadly, like too many Dublin gigs recently, this one sits in that most frustrating of categories: impressive band, ruined by a few too many in the audience that should either shut it or stop wasting their money and stick to a pint in their local