Meat Beat Manifesto
Feb. 10, 2011
El Rey Theatre
A blind person could attend a Meat Beat Manifesto show and walk away completely satisfied, but that person would be missing half the fun and not even know it.
You see, the British techno/electro/industrial/drum and bass duo of Jack Dangers and Ben Stokes doesn't just drop insane beats and expect the crowd to come up with its own visual images. No, these guys perform with two screens behind them projecting images that often have a connection to the music.
For example, instead of just sampling the famous Christopher Walken "Cowbell" line from Saturday Night Live, MBM uses the footage to go along with the voice-over. And it wasn't just limited to that one time. Nearly every sample they use has video to match, which is one of the coolest things you can see from a musical act.
Other highlights included that infamous scene from Scanners in which the dude's head blows up; clips of The Sex Pistols, The Who and Otis Redding; plus video of one of those television preachers "healing" a woman and a vintage jazz bassist playing an upright while the music is being looped through the speakers.
But the two best parts of the evening were definite showstoppers. For about 10 minutes, the duo looped about five drum tracks over one another, and yes, they had the footage for each. Most seemed to come from drum-instructional videos by skinsmen I didn't recognize, although footage of Animal from The Muppets did make an appearance every so often. The result was intense, and no one in the El Rey was standing still.
The other was footage of what appeared to be either astronauts or members of a military troupe going through some type of training. Each had a camera placed on his body and one on his face. MBM spliced the videos to show each, and while I have no idea what these people were having done to them, my best guess is it was some sort of G-force experiment because one guy's eyes nearly popped out of his head.
I wish I had a photographic memory so I could detail every little thing that was onscreen because, trust me, it's a freakin' killer thing to witness. Off the top of my head, I remember old-school reggae singers, two old men dancing in unison, mushrooms, Obama, more B-movie clips than Elvira's basement, Jack Nicholson from The Shining, scenes from Reefer Madness and The Omen, and lots of people's heads exploding.
I stood near the front for the entire 90-minute set, but I was against the back wall during the encore. This turned out to be a smart move because MBM dropped a bass line that was so deep it rattled my feet--and I was at least 50 yards away from a speaker.
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Personal Bias: I know almost nothing about electro/dance music other than the fact that every time I hear it live, I have an amazing time.
Crowd: The most eclectic, unpretentious mix I've ever seen in LA. It was quite refreshing, actually.
Overheard In the crowd: Some guy who was obviously more than just drunk yelled, "Skinny Puppy!" as loud as he could during a quiet part of the encore.
Random Notebook Dump: I remember when you used to be able to park for free a few blocks away from the El Rey. Not anymore. Thanks, gentrification.