19.03.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

Lucky Dragons

While I am familiar with Californian band Lucky Dragons’ music, I’ve only ever heard album tracks but I’ve been told that to see them live is an entirely different trip altogether. In fact, a close friend (who happened to shirk tonight’s gig) declared that their gigs are “remarkably exciting” and that he even “bought a Lucky Dragons T shirt”. High praise indeed from a man who doesn’t wear T shirts.

And then there’s the small matter of audience participation, something that causes a slight jangle of my nerves. Am I going to have to play a musical instrument? Am I going to be used as a drum somehow? My head feels hollow, so if it was given a good whack it would make a pleasing sound, at least.

As the majority of the crowd in AutoItalia are sitting cross-legged slurping from cans they’ve brought in to the venue, I settle on at the periphery of the mass. Los Macuanos makes his way to the middle and says he’s come all the way from Mexico to play us a set. Some laptop programming is followed by Lantino electronica that sounds a bit like a train moving overhead. In a flash the majority of the crowd have risen to dance.

Then after a lengthy wait Lucky Dragons fill the gap in the middle of the crowd, they apologise for keeping us. Apparently they’re using two laptops for the show which has caused some sort of confusion, Luke Fischbeck doesn’t seem to know why they’re using two laptops which is worrying seeing as he is half of the band.

At the back of the room a big screen shows luminous, squirming flowers, the music begins. Fischbeck has said that he likes “newness and creative reuse” which is instantly apparent. The noises used are familiar but the overall sound seems original and unusual. Sporadic clanks of percussion rattle over a wash of drawn-out synth tones. Then Sarah Rara (the other half of the band) starts to hand out CD’s. Receivers seem unsure as to what to do with them. Rara indicates that they should wave them over the colourful light angled at the ceiling, positioned just in front of her. They willingly oblige. The effect is striking and for a moment I think I notice a slight change in musical frequency every time a CD is hovered over the glow, reflecting the light.

Three small gongs are passed to the audience and then passed around. There is a varied reaction amongst recipients, some go into a fixed stare, presumably reading the beat and then repeatedly strike the gong, some receive then pass straight on, some give it one meek hit and pass on whilst others just look happy to smack something, wildly bashing away with apparent disregard for any rhythm. Yet miraculously the music never sounds shambolic, instead it is wonderfully structured smoothed over by Rara’s vocals that waver like a sirens call.

Then the most noteworthy piece of audience participation begins. A member of the audience holds a wire connected to Fischbeck’s Laptop, there is no noticeable change at first. She then touches a guy next to her who has his arm round a friend and a hypnotic sound echoes around the venue. Then somebody else repeatedly pats her on the shoulder causing a faint fluctuation. More and more join the human circuit as the noise evolves and crescendos and then it’s over. There is a loud cheer, everybody clearly has enjoyed themselves (although I’d guess that the members of the audience closest to the band had the most fun), Fischbeck scratches his head and says he had fun, Rara smiles, gives a wave then they both pack up.

Rather than nervous, I am mesmerised by the whole experience. Performing within the heart of a crowd and encouraging it to contribute challenges the hierarchy of the standard gig. At first it seemed perculiar but then consuming. The spiral of melody and the aesthetics of the visuals are transfixing. While all this makes a Lucky Dragons gig worth seeing, the main reason that I’ll see them again though is that I, like the rest of the crowd, have had brilliant fun.

Read our interview with Luke and Sarah here

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