Electronic artists Bleep Bloop, RJD2 and XXYYXX played back-to-back shows at Empire Control Room & Garage from Thursday, Feb. 16 to Saturday, Feb. 18. Empire is known for its diversity in music, people and culture, as a glimpse into these performance showcased.
Story by Marilee Bodden
On Thursday, Feb. 16, Bleep Bloop’s grimy electronic wubs and heavy bass poured through the speakers of Empire’s inside venue, The Control Room. Full of glitches and surreal sounds, Bleep Bloop seemed to transport all the concert goers right into the middle of dark space matter.
Bleep Bloop opened for Space Jesus at Empire earlier this year and returned as a headliner for part of his Spring 2017 tour. He played songs with titles such as “Water on Mars” and “HCl”, which maintain the inorganic, inhuman theme of his latest EP, “The EP with Five Eyes,” which was released back in October.
While his sounds might seem a little dark and scary at first, they epitomize the style of glitch music. Although this genre is a bit alien and cold, the people listening are warm and inviting. Everyone was smiling, conversing with one another, and, dancing in the space funk that emulated from the stage.
Empire Control Room cultivates a unique environment. The crowd is willing to talk, listen and experience the concert as one, rather than the experience being individual. Perhaps one of the reasons for this sense of togetherness is because the genres commonly played at Empire are not mainstream, thus creating a smaller, more intertwined and devoted crowd.
“I drove from Mississippi, over eight hours away, just to see this concert,” Bridget Nickerson says while dancing skillfully in her brightly colored rainbow wrap. Although Nelson says she came alone, she was surrounded by Austin strangers turned newfound friends.
More often than not, there are live painters who set up their canvases, mingle with the concert-goers, and paint to the music. “The Empire community uses art and music to bring friends together,” Bleep Bloop fan Carlene Blacksher says.
Such was the dark and unearthly theme of Thursday night. On Friday, the scene was lighter and filled with the electronic-hip-hop mashup genius of RJD2 and his live band. Alongside them was STS or “Sugar Tongue Slim,” a rapper who collaborated with RJD2 on an album.
RJD2 records, arranges, produces and often performs his songs all by himself. He has a wide spectrum of sounds including hip-hop, instrumental, electric piano, guitar and synths. He also incorporates samples from different songs into his music.
RJD2 and his companions performed in Empire’s largest outside venue, The Garage. On this night, the air was full of crowd chatter and laughter. “Austin is, of course, one of the best places to play,” STS says. “The crowd was so cool and welcoming, it was a very good energy.”
During the concert, RJD2 played hits from his latest album “Dame Fortune,” which falls on the electronic-chill side of the spectrum, as well as several songs from his album with STS, “STS x RJD2,” which falls on the hip-hop side. He finished out the night with his most popular song
“Ghostwriter,” a soulful electronic mashup.
The cool, calming, brain-melting sounds of XXYYXX were a fitting way to finish off a weekend of live music at Empire. XXYYXX or Marcell Everett is a 19-year-old electronic producer from Orlando, Florida. He has spent the past few months touring all over America, and will finish his tour off in Philadelphia at the end of February.
In an aura of stage light, XXYYXX lulled the ears of Austin into euphoria. He played songs and then slowed them down, reverberating sounds and pulling on the eardrums of the listeners. On this night the crowd was less chatty, but still happy and united.
XXYYXX played music both old and new, including songs from his first and only album “XXYYXX,” released in 2012, and many that are unreleased (perhaps a second album is on the way). He ended with his well-known, ambient song “About You,” which features delicate vocals.
Empire brought a night of grimy, dirty electronic music, a night of lighthearted, electro/hip-hop songs, and a night of chill, calm waves. Each night, brought an inviting and engaged crowd. It was a diverse weekend for an equally diverse venue.