Techno-wizards wow small but happy crowd at Britt

This is not my music. But I'm giving it a chance.

I could never stand people who go to concerts and heap contempt on the artists because they're guilty of not being The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Lady Gaga, whoever. Dude, you're at the wrong show.

So I'm feeling the big beats and sonic bombs Friday night of The Crystal Method at Britt, which if nothing else testifies to the protean flavor of the summer festival these days. The techno/electronica is sandwiched in between ukelele sensation (yes, ukelele) Jake Shimabukuro and Leo Kottke on Thursday and country singer Trace Adkins tonight.

The crowd is thin but enthusiastic. And one of the youngest I've seen here, right down to what we used to call teenyboppers. When Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland, aka TCM, take the stage, there's a rush to the front, and everybody is dancing.

The happy scene underscores that fact that Britt has finally embraced the reality that, a) at some point you have to draw younger people, and b) where there's music and beer, dancing might break out. No fewer than 10 shows have been designated dance shows this year.

In this one, Jordan and Kirkland are bopping around like jubilant wizards behind a bunch of strange, science fiction-ish gear. There's a lot of Pioneer stuff, Roland Jupiters, I think, various Nord family goodies, all combining to bounce sounds around the hillside as the lights flash and whirl and the smoke roars.

It's all built on the bass, the hypnotic rhythm. They'll add a melody hook, bring it along to an opposing motif, break it up and bring it back, grinning like mad at the mini-climaxes on the way. Rinse and repeat. Turn it up.

In the way that Bob Marley makes you think of Jamaica, or Bruce Springsteen of a summer night in New Jersey, the Method makes you think of a big rave in some cavernous warehouse in L.A. in 1994. You keep expecting somebody to tell you to pee clear and wondering if the cops will break it up.

A radio-friendly song tends to have a traditional verse-chorus structure, ending up where it started. These songs, the better ones, take fans on a journey while seeming merely to provide danceable noise.

And I can't name a one. Even though they're on TV shows ("Bones"), movies ("Lost in Space," "Resident Evil: Extinction"), video games ("Need for Speed: Underground") TV commercials. They even created a 45-minute "run mix" for Nike, for Petesake.

I thought I picked up the outer space disco of "Come Back Clean," but no, and then some ambient noise a bit like "Black Rainbows," or not.

I turn to the fans. A pretty young woman, barefoot, throws her arms around me and asks if my kids are here.

Me: No. Do you know the name of this song?

Her: No. I was here for Sofi (Sofia Toufa, the opening act who didn't show up). Your grandkids?

I turn to a couple guys who are singing along.

Me: Do you guys know the name of this song?

Guys: Uh, not this one. They all sound different. I think they change 'em.

There are surprise snippets of lyrics such as, "Don't slam the f—-in' door!"

The downside is that after a time, there's a sameness about it all.

A question. If, instead of guitars and pianos and such, you play synthesizers, samplers and computers, are you still an artist? Even the people at Burning Man — where this kind of music goes literally around the clock — don't agree on this (just check the Burner sites).

But people who worry about such things are missing the point. It's fun. And analyzing it to death goes nowhere. This isn't music for your head. This is for your body.

Bill Varble writes about arts and entertainment for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at

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