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Published on March 30th, 2015 | by Graylien

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Pumping Iron with Oneohtrix Point Never

Arizona State University is not exactly a forward-thinking place. In recent years it has been plagued by numerous problems with fraternities throwing racist themed parties, frequent-and-extreme alcohol poisoning, and a multitude of sexual assault cases.

Also, let’s not forget the longstanding “#1 Party School” title awarded by Playboy magazine… These reasons alone should make any rational-thinking individual run in the opposite direction, which may explain why recent events at the school have left experimental music fans and frat boys equally confused.

Over the past two years, the University has attempted to rebrand it’s image using the slogan “New American University” while hosting events such as Philip Glass performing his piano etudes and Noam Chomsky discussing social justice with Lawrence Krauss.

The rest of the crowd was made up of art students, hipsters, health goths, and a few very stoned individuals

In March 2015, a free concert featuring Oneohtrix Point Never was held at a remote campus of Arizona State University, far off in the strip-mall wasteland of westside PHX. The event was sponsored by the Modern & Contemporary Art Club, which created a cryptic Facebook event for the concert. Even more puzzling was the fact that the concert was to be held in the Sun Devil Fitness Complex, smack-dab in the center of the gym on a converted basketball court.

opn copyAmidst the barbells, free weights and rowing machines was a makeshift stage bookshelfed by two line arrays of speakers and some menacing subwoofers. When entering the Fitness Complex, it was obvious who was attending the show and who was there for a work out. A small whiteboard boasted a cheerful, multi-colored, handwritten message informing gym patrons that “electronic producer” Oneohtrix Point Never would be performing from 8pm to 9pm, however all exercise equipment was still available for use.

For the uninitiated, OPN’s music spans every genre of the ambient spectrum using extreme audio processing techniques and a fine attention to detail.

Before the concert started, a few curious EDM bros wearing neon tank tops and cargo shorts were in attendance. As the concert progressed, they could be seen slowly inching towards the back of the half-empty concert area, looking for an escape back to their dorms. The rest of the crowd was made up of art students, hipsters, health goths, and a few very stoned individuals whose gazes were transfixed on the otherworldy visuals projected behind the artist.

No merch table, no other acts, just a group of experimental music fans left hanging out in a gym on a Thursday night.

Backwards and inverted video game logos flashed on top of pre-rendered art experiments made from screenshots in Blender, creating an uneasy and quite psychedelic environment. The hypnotized crowd clapped in a docile manner as each song ended abruptly, followed by a piercing silence from the hoisted speakers above.

Most of the material played during the concert was taken from the 2013 release R Plus 7, featuring a jarring version of Americans and a truly exciting mix on Boring Angel. The songs seemed to slowly evolve over time, with each mix seamlessy blending the perfect combinations of tonal frequencies and visual mind-candy. After 45 minutes of pure sonic bliss amidst the cold steel and body sweat, Lopatin nervously laughs, “Thanks for coming out to the gym.” A few windbraker-studded figures wearing neon running shoes could be seen standing on the balcony behind the audience, taking in the exhibition with an inquisitive glance.

“One of the weirdest shows I’ve ever played,” Lopatin mutters as he cues up the final tracks. He announces his last song, thanks everyone, and launches a claustrophobic synth pad into the gym, jolting the audience out of their collective trance. Heads were banged (slowly) as a few, familiar deep bass hits rippled through the false floor on top of the basketball court. The mix aggressively increased in intensity, with frequencies bouncing all throughout the gym, immersing the listeners in a full 360-degree sonic assault.

Without warning, Lopatin cuts the sound at 60 minutes as per agreement with the university, smiles and slowly puts on his jacket as the small crowd gives off a roaring applause. Facility management members quickly began clearing the basketball court as the crowd dispersed, unsure of what they just witnessed. No merch table, no other acts, just a group of experimental music fans left hanging out in a gym on a Thursday night.

As people slowly started to file out of the gym into the empty campus, it became apparent how odd of an evening this had been.

Outside there were a few overheard comments regarding whether or not it’s okay to smoke outside the gym. Thrust back into the conservative evenings of Glendale, AZ, finally making contact with earth after the cosmic 60 minutes spent in hyperspace.

The alien-looking sentry plants that lined the walkway back to the parking lot brought to mind the landscape of René Laloux’s La Planète sauvage. In the parking lot, someone asked if anyone was going to Sleater-Kinney the following weekend, and the evening was officially over.


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2 Responses to Pumping Iron with Oneohtrix Point Never

  1. Ben Zimmerman says:

    “R Plus 7” came out in 2013.

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