Monday, Aug. 3, 2015
The Regency Ballroom
If Monday is a night of rest, no one remembered to tell Ratatat.
Forced to reschedule their Friday night show due to vehicular malfunctions (aka their tour bus broke down in Oregon), Mike Stroud and Evan Mast delivered a performance worthy of the weekend to a sweaty crowd unconcerned with the work day that awaited them in the morning.
The demographic was varied, plaid shirts rubbing up against bare chests, but the audience was united in their excitement to see Ratatat tour behind their first new album in five years. Across 90 minutes of blistering rocktronica at the sold-out Regency Ballroom, the band reaffirmed its unique place in the music kingdom as a band seemingly every kind of music fan enjoys.
[jump] Despite typical chilly summer night temperatures outside on Van Ness, the Regency Ballroom was a sweltering jungle of steam and bodies in motion, outlined by one of the more incredible light shows in recent memory. See enough shows, and it seems impossible that any combination of strobes, lasers, and fog could surprise you, but Ratatat’s light show is transcendent.
Perhaps it had something to do with how the patterns so perfectly matched the slow but energetic guitar gymnastics Stroud laid down song after song. Maybe it has to do with the awesome sensation of feeling like you’re inside the final boss level of a vintage Sega Genesis game. Whatever the case may be, the visual components of Ratatat’s performance functioned as the third member of the duo.
In a sense, phantom members of Ratatat served as a reoccurring theme throughout the night. Several times the band’s backdrop played host to oversized silhouettes of Stroud and Mast, a fitting statement given the robust sound the two generated. On its latest album, Magnifique, Ratatat continue its travels in familiar territory, layering the bare fundamentals of rock into nostalgic waves of riff-happy party music. You can get down to Ratatat or fold your laundry to it – that’s sort of the beauty of the band's sound. It works in a club, but it doesn’t require one, and the sleek guitar work is as abundant as the dance-ready synthesizers.
Aside from pretty lights and looming shadows, the duo also shared their spotlight with a varied cast of crisp three-dimensional projections. A parakeet, a Grecian statue head, a rotating chain, and something that was either part of a brain or a piece of coral reef all made appearances, further transforming the Regency Ballroom into a hybrid landscape of rave and rock show.
Ballrooms, especially ones in Northern California, were probably not built with ventilation as a high concern. Thus the heat expelled from the dancing crowd and performers on stage coalesced amongst the chandeliers above to create a tropical fog of steam and sweat that permeated the venue. While the conditions resulted in more than a few drenched shirts and brisk water bottle sales, it only added to the visual power of the holograms bookending the stage.
Occasionally, the band slowed things down. “Supreme,” which is as close to a beach song as the band is likely to get, was a respite from more high-octane affairs like “Cream on Chrome” and crowd favorite “Seventeen Years.” During the latter song, which served as Ratatat’s pre-encore closer, dance pits appeared like quicksand, sucking passerby into a blur of waving arms and stomping feet. Ultimately though, the setlist’s purpose was less an exercise in alternating pacing and more an exploration of exactly how many scintillating guitar hooks one band can bust out in less than two hours (answer: so many).
With the annual Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival set to descend on Golden Gate Park in only a few days time, it was impressive to see such an energetic crowd disregard the calendar and give themselves over to Stroud and Mast’s chill hypnosis. There are bands best seen on a Friday night, and then there is Ratatat, a group that brings the weekend to you, if only for a few hours. You can still fold your laundry tomorrow.
—- They may not be officially linked, but it’s hard to fathom how one would pass on the chance to combine a concert at the Regency Ballroom with a visit to Tommy’s Joynt down the block. Turkey, mashed potatoes, and rum punch make for some excellent post-concert fuel. Plus they're open until 2:00am every night.
—- On leaving the venue, the woman in front of me gave the easy exits provided by the Regency a jubilant “four out of four stars.” In the wake of a concert's end, we're usually fairly content to slowly shuffle out of a venue, but a speedy departure can make a world of difference. Shoreline, take note.
—- And the award for most unlikely acts to play the same place in one week goes to Ratatat and Woody Allen, the latter of which will take over the Regency with his New Orleans Jazz Band on Thursday evening.