BoomBox and Bitch Please unfurled a nearly nonstop night of music at Raleigh’s Pour House Music Hall on the last day of April. Unrelenting dance beats and lengthy instrumental journeys ruled the night as the pair of duos kept an eager crowd dancing until the last note.
Bitch Please, out of Lexington, Kentucky, kicked the party off just after 10 PM with a thoroughbred style of instrumental electronica. Drummer Matt Westbrook tirelessly engineered their exhausting 45-minute set, during which he and band mate Chuck Moreland delved into various sonic treasure troves. Westbrook’s stamina during the demanding, fast-paced set was truly amazing, and the beat never stopped, save a brief “thanks for coming” from Moreland before their last song.
Moreland was as busy as Westbrook, his attention constantly darting from bass guitar to synths to laptop. Together, they explored bass-heavy rhythms, hyper-speed dance music, psychedelic collages, and sample-based songs. Moreland utilized a dizzying array of modified vocal samples that helped lend melodic focus and pop punch to their insistent, pumping beats. Bitch Please bring together the computerized and human elements of dance music to create a high-tech experience that doesn’t leave emotion out of the equation.
The same can be said for BoomBox, though their style is even more humanized thanks to the mellow voice and conversational guitar of Zion Rock Godchaux (of the same Godchaux clan you probably just thought of). Over the past 5 years, Godchaux and beat-machinist Russ Randolph have nudged the band’s overall sound further into pure electronica, but have also retained their rock and roll soul.
Based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, BoomBox is a paradox that works on multiple levels. The stoic Randolph provides a steady, mesmerizing pulse for Godchaux to melodically wander around. Their personal appearance speaks to their varied but inclusive style – Randolph is far from flamboyant, while Godchaux favors feather boas, snazzy hats and sunglasses. They have educational and familial roots in rock and roll, but also worship the even pulse of disco, house, and funk music. The whole combination makes for an experience that will please the dance-crazed and entertain aficionados who crave stimulation of the mental variety.
The duo’s two-hour set offered few respites for the enthusiastic crowd, as an intoxicating, hypnotic rhythm took hold and never let up. With the dance groove firmly planted, the band moved seamlessly between open-ended improvisation, their own songs, and touchstone covers like “Shakedown Street,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” and an instrumental nod to “Billie Jean.” All of these were interpreted with maximum emphasis on dance elements, making the old sound new again.
The bass-boosted version of “Billie Jean” birthed not only “Shakedown” during a lengthy improvisation, but the crowd-pleasing original tune “Stereo.” It was a playful example of how the elemental thud that the band favors can serve as a bedrock for new, original music as well as a basis for the re-imagining of classic songs, and how it can tie them all together.
BoomBox moved efficiently and with purpose, keeping the crowd gyrating and mentally refreshed. Their unique techno version of Bob Dylan’s “Who Killed Davey Moore,” one of the more recognizable tracks from their debut album, served as a climactic moment after a meandering jam. They hinted at the song’s irresistible beat for 10 minutes before giving in, and they exhibited full control over the mood of the room all the while.
While the fundamental beat barely changes for two hours, the band still manages to include everything from inventive guitar solos, improvisation, and exuberant crescendos to adrenaline-infused dance music, blissful beatmongering, and surreal sonic experimentation. They don’t boil your brain in noise and light like some rave-ready groups, opting instead to keep things at a sensual mid-tempo simmer that inspires the listener’s thoughts and keeps the audience’s feet working.
This show ended up being an interesting showcase for two bands who have similar musical goals but travel quite different paths. Bitch Please proved to be the edgier of the two acts, but BoomBox killed the crowd with kindness – not to mention Godchaux’s effortlessly breezy voice. Either band is well worth the attention of live music fans, regardless of their alignment with a particular style of music.
*Photos by Dave Berry*