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  Review 3/Mar/04  
Philadelphia Laptop Battle - 2/25/04

Alex Welsh taking his set at the Philadelphia Laptop Battle
On February 25, 2004, I had the good fortune to attend the Philadelphia Laptop Battle, at Silk City, a local club near downtown. The event was organized by Dev79 of Seclusiasis Studios and a member of electro-music.com. See the announcement here, and the event's web site.

The format was similar to the old battle of the bands. Each of the eight performers got to play a 5 minute set, and then there was an series of eliminations (8, 5, 3, 1) until a winner was selected. Unfortunately, due to time restrictions, I had to leave after the first round. The performers were, La Mejor Seleccion, Mikronesia, Black Market (all the way from Montreal), Structure, Bidi, Imobiline, Alex Welsh and Nintari Man. Dev79 says the Nintari Man was the ultimate winner - congratulations.

I had a great time, all of the music was good. There was a lot of variety in the styles and in the sonic material used by the different artists. Almost all used beat-oriented structures, but these ranged from thumping repeititious drum-like sounds, to the more IDM-type of electronic ear candy that shuffles through time. The latter is my favorite. There were more ambient sounding parts as well.

One of the things I expected was that people would just play prerecorded loops and songs. I didn't think there would be much to live performance when the instument is just a laptop. I was very pleasantly surprised. These guys were very involved in what they were doing - they were intense. For example, Alex Welsh plays standing up, while holding his machine under his arm. He appeared to be playing melodies on the QWERTY keyboard. Nintari Man, whose music was very rhythmical, was enthusiastically jumping up and down during his performance; so much that his pants fell down. He never took his eyes off the screen, or his hands off of the keyboard and mouse. The crowd was very excited by his set.

Speaking of the crowd, it was great. The room was full; standing room only. The audience was very focused on the music. They were supportive and enthusiastic. I was very impressed that the performers were very supportive of each other too.

This concert certainly changed my opinion of laptop music. At least in this case, these are very serious musicians making good music. I commend Dev79 for putting this event together. Congratulations to all of the musicians.

I took a few pictures. You can see them here.
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