Bassnectar at House of Blues: Better Living Through Volume

Last night, Lorin Ashton, a.k.a. Bassnectar, made loudness an art form. Drawing from a wide range of influences, his electronica set pulsated with energy and literally shook the walls of House of Blues. His strong build-ups tensed with well-timed silences that made the crowd shake with anticipation, then his beat erupted into a high-energy climax. Looking like Cousin Itt-meets-a-L’Oreal commercial, Ashton jumped underneath his mane, his long fingers darting out to flick the keys on one of his two laptops.

By Erika Goldring

During Bassnectar’s set, the crowd pulsated in unison like a large amoeba. At the height of every build-up, every surface in House of Blues vibrated—skin, arm hairs, walls, toilets, drinks—to the deliberately physical beat produced by Ashton. Outstretched palms surfed the airwaves flying out from the large speakers. Bright lights framed his silhouette, sometimes forming abstract or surreal-in-context scenes; in one, a man brushing his teeth. At other times, especially during one particularly slow build-up towards the end of the set, the panels of lights dimmed and only a few lone lights shone into the audience.

Still, the night was about Ashton and his concertgoers. They gazed up at him like a demi-god. The only times he spoke to the crowd, the native San Franciscan checked on them, asking, “You guys feeling good? Having fun?” The crowd roared in response. Glowsticks snapped off wrists and rained onto the dark floor.

While each Bassnectar song had strong build-ups that culminated in loud, enormous beats, there were diverse influences throughout the set. Samples ranged from Lil Wayne to the Cranberries’ “Zombies,” which moved the crowd to singing lilting high notes while they jammed to the dynamic bass beat. The samples never distracted from the physical nature of the set. After all, that tangibility is what Bassnectar is all about: creating music that transcends the concertgoer from an observer to a physical part of the music experience. Bassnectar took advantage of an encore to remind everyone of that, creating a monstrous beat that left ears ringing.