The Rex Theater can be a bit of a frustrating place for the over-21 set of concertgoers. There's a bar inside to your immediate right that, through renovations and improvements, has retained its theater-snack-bar feel. It's got charm and a sense of history like an old theater on E. Carson St. should. However, that charm comes at a cost. If the show you're going to is all-ages and you're vying to hear a well-known act, then you can pretty much forget about being comfortable and/or drinking as you dance. Promoters have the option to make it all ages because they can close the bar off from the theater, unlike in most venues, where a bar is a part of the performance area. Not to say that you need to drink to enjoy music, far from it. Just saying, the Rex is more suited for shot taking than beer sipping.
The theater space is big, bigger than anticipated from the looks of the outside. On the night that Glitch Mob was in town, July 30th, the crowd was substantial and rich with diversity. Cigarette smokers lined the street outside in an attempt to recover from the sweltering inside of the theater.
The evening started out with the booty-shaking tune offerings of VIA DJ's Lauren G and Nikkels. They were followed with a set by Movement Electronic Music Festival vet Com Truise who's mastered a soft synth wave sound that went perfectly with the humid rainforest-like atmosphere of the Rex. His faded electronic nostalgia was sweet yet smart, a welcome combination in the scope of the glitchfest that would come later.
Phantogram followed and were a dominating force of electronic elements blended with live band rock 'n' roll vibes. The band is comprised of an actual guitar and drum set, keys and synths, a blend of music that falls somewhere between the Cocteau Twins and Sonic Youth. Hailing from Saratoga Springs, NY, Sarah Barthel (vocals, keyboard) and Josh Carter (vocals, guitar) draw influences from the NY art scene but bring a certain open-spaced rawness to their sets. As vocalists both Carter and Barthel ooze personality. Barthel particularly brought a level of stage presence that was reminiscent of PJ Harvey and Karen O rolled up into a modelesque powerhouse of vocal passion.
Glitch Mob finally took the stage. All three members stood behind their signature flashing light frames that referenced old Kraftwerk performances where the members stood behind keyboards with a display of visuals happening all around them. Only in that sense did they reference the German electronic music purveyors: sonically, Glitch Mob was all glitch, obviously. It was a hard-hitting sound that was loud, fast and rigid. After the beauty and artistry of Com Truise and Phantogram, Glitch Mob was a bit in the jarring side. Glitch hop can certainly be fun, but when it starts to feel repetitive it becomes all about the visuals, which were pretty cool and certainly epic within the large theater space of the Rex.
Glitch Mob looked great and brought an insatiable energy to the room while Phantogram offered the sweaty crowd in the Rex beautiful booty shaking jams. A quality booking certainly got the crowd to forget about the discomfort of the heat or the fact that they couldn't drink a beer while they rocked out. Such things matter so little when the music is fun.