(Photos: Crystal Ramirez)

When manic vocalist Alice Glass rides the waves of furious energy Crystal Castles emits, she’s quick to climb things, throw herself into the crowd or literally walk on a sea of hands. Devotees of the band know this going in, and despite a 10:00 start time posted on the Roseland’s front door for their recent Portland show, the all-ages main floor began to fill up before the first opener took the stage at 8:00, with many of the youngsters in line openly strategizing ways to secure and maintain a front and center spot for their social cluster. A smattering of costumes may simply be more commonplace at a Crystal Castles show rather than evidence that the event was taking place a week before Halloween, but the handful of skeleton costumes and the spikey-haired guy in a Beetlejuice pinstriped suit seemed particularly festive, while it takes a special kind of grit to show up wearing nothing but distance running short-shorts and a tank top despite the October chill, so my hat’s off to you, mustachioed Steve Prefontaine look-alike.

Those of us who arrived way too early weren’t exactly rewarded for efforts. As I settled into my balcony seat with a frosty adult beverage to look down my nose at the kids on the ground floor, I was already bummed that slated opening noise rock band Health, who has partnered with Crystal Castles on various singles in the past, had canceled at the last minute (and, in fact, had ditched out on the remaining nine shows of the tour altogether). This meant the 8 PM slot went to some random DJ whose derivative beats would likely get rejected from purgatory’s soundtrack for being too monotonous. After 50 buzz-killing minutes, the stage was turned over to the second opener Kontravoid, the current moniker of former Crystal Castles tour drummer Cameron Findlay. Sung over his dark and industrially New Wave programmed beats, the lyrics to Findlay’s brooding vocals were indecipherable as he danced behind a lone pulsing strobe, but he played a serviceable, if brief, stage-warming set.

And then the Alice-proofing began. Roadies slapped fluorescent tape onto speakers, mic stands, the floor and a beam near the back of the stage to aid the rampaging vocalist in both locating crucial gear and avoiding injury once they hooked the juice to the six pillars of complex lighting fanned across the back of the stage. Meanwhile, the house music reminded us that Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with. What turned into a 45-minute wait dragged on, but the band finally appeared at 10:15 to a rousing ovation. As they opened with “Plague,” the rather abrasive new single from their forthcoming third album, the lighting pillars flashed in spastic reds, silhouetting Glass, producer Ethan Kath and current tour drummer Christopher Chartrand. After testing the waters with that new song, the band tore the roof off the place as they threw down a furious rendition of bleep-and-bloop-heavy “Baptism.” Before the song’s end an uncharacteristically turquoise-haired Glass made her first foray into the ecstatic embrace of the crowd’s upturned arms.

Having already, within the span of two songs, inflicted enough sensory overload to induce apoplexy, the band mellowed out a bit with the buzzy sleekness of “Vietnam” and a pungent cannabis aroma wafted into the at-capacity balcony by the time Glass’ mechanized vocals rose up from heavy-hitter “Crimewave.” Glass scaled the raised drum platform (following the neon tape like a trail of bread crumbs, no doubt) and belted out her vocals from her perch atop Chartrand’s bass drum before dropping back down to stage level for the dark distortion and abrasive shrieking that accompanies “xxzxcuzx me.” She thrust herself into the crowd again during the 8-bit overtones of “Black Panther” and actually managed to stand on the outstretched palms of the kiddies in the front, unleashing raw-throated howls as her legs wobbled while taking a few tenuous steps across the top of the crowd before inevitably tumbling down into the throng of arms.

As the set wound down with “Reckless,” balloons with blinking novelty lights inside bounced above the dance floor, and as Glass body-surfed the crowd again she wrapped her mic cord around her neck for dramatic (if rather morbid) effect. The band chilled out with the soothing “Celestica” and cranked the dials back up for one final song before stepping offstage. Their three-song encore ended with the bounce of “Courtship Dating” and yet another trip by Glass into the crowd. With that, they wordlessly left the stage, and the house lights came on one hour to the minute after the band first emerged. With such a potent dose of sensory overload, Crystal Castles didn’t need a long set to leave an indelible impression. My ears were ringing long into the following day, and I couldn’t shake the afterimage of Glass standing atop a tangle of appendages, shrieking down at her enamored minions.

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One Comment

  1. The Kid

    November 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I’m curious if anybody knows the name of this random DJ?

    Reply

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