SXSW Review: Bayonne, March 18, Victorian Room at The Driskill

Bayonne

I have heard less enthusiastic opening chants to an audience than “Do you guys still have any energy left?” But then again only from acts that I would walk out on half way through. So it didn’t look good on Bayonne when he sheepishly asked that question minutes into his electronica set at the Victoria Room at Driskill. The answer was plainly obvious: anyone who braved the craze on 6th street at 1159PM on Friday night in order to see a show was determined to be there. That the crowd consisted of a continuum between high school prom queens and mathematics professors probably reflects the other half of that question. It was likely just as clear from the stage: we should endeavour to be a more energetic bunch.

Bayonne, as I mentioned in my preview, is the stage name of Roger Sellers. His genre of music had its inception in the early 90s, when electronics became powerful enough to enable live-looping. Drawing from the sounds and melody created using sequencer, synthesizer, vocal and drums, Bayonne loops and samples in order to compose a fully formed song right in front of the audience. While the multi-instrumentalist does everything himself, it’s not gawdy like the imagery of a circus one-man band would suggest. This being an electronic form in a live setting, however, it forces one to ask an obvious question – how much of the pieces were pre-made? What is it that the audience gets out of the “performance” of a song compared to the rendering of a song live? Does it matter?

Bayonne

As we watched, the pieces fell into place and the composition took shape at an exponential rate. I could see that while the error margins might be more tolerant than for a traditional singer-songwriter, it nonetheless takes careful thought and effort to piece together the components. The recording nature led to a natural progression for every piece – background melody, drums, vocal, almost invariably in that order. It’s almost like cooking. Once all the ingredients are in hand, Bayonne the chef mixed them perfectly into a complex stew worthy of your attention. They were beaming, flowing pieces with catchy hooks and rhythms, and a clear progression. Bayonne does very little, as far as I could tell, with the vocals. While they remain distinct, I had a feeling that lyrics were secondary. At first glance, I found that there were too many voices for it to be cohesive. But pieces like “Spectrolite” and “Waves” really do stick with you. All of the tracks are now on the album, Primitives. If you have a superhuman brain that could track 4 separate melodic/percussion lines and remain completely cognizant of each, you’d be bored to death of the repeating nature. But if you’re most people and have the patience for Bayonne to finish moulding, the results will be far more rewarding than you think.

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Posted on by Gary in Concerts, Reviews, South By Southwest

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