VIA’s Friday night line-up at first makes Badley laugh, but in the end leaves her dancing and satisfied.
Friday Night with Extreme Animals, Light Asylum, araabMUZIK and Blondes at VIA Music and New Media Festival
Text by Badley Pratt, Photos by Hannah Spiers
Pretty lights and bicycles. Obviously I’ve found 6022 Broad Street after wandering around East Liberty alone, in a miniskirt, at night, for a little too long.
It’s not even 10 PM, yet there’s a pretty dense crowd of beer-toting Pittsters milling about VIA’s block party-style barricade.
Inside the gigantic venue there’s a healthy amount of sensory-stimulation—neon spotlights flood in from outside while colors and images flash on the projector screens lining the walls around the stage.
I almost laugh out loud as Extreme Animals take the stage. Members Jacob Ciocci and David Wightman look like two twin brothers who might both be Jesus.
“Are you guys ready for the VIP shit?” Jacob Ciocci, on air guitar and distorted vocals, calls out to the crowd concentrated heavily toward the stage. Behind him, a giant cat flashes on the projector pasted over footage of a drummer in a Spiderman suit.
The music itself is an amalgamation of influences—I hear dubstep, 8-bit, and mash-ups of old techno and trance songs, plus the other noise I can’t identify. Wightman begins to shred a particularly-sassy looking red axe adding metal crunch to the mix, while Ciocci, air-shredding in front of the projector screen, contributes heavily distorted vocals.
Despite the raucous noise emanating from the stage, the crowd is strangely still. Save for some head-bobbing and knee-bending, everyone’s heads are transfixed on the epileptic video accompaniment, which are as mashed-up as the music. Clips of teen girls with mascara running down their faces flash in and out of 90s kids’ shows and the duo’s own animations; the spectacle resembles an even weirder version of Tim and Eric.
On the surface, it all just seems weird, but some research shows me there’s a lot more to the madness. Extreme Animals is a pretty prolific duo. Performing together since 2002, Ciocci is a guest lecturer at CMU and founding member of art collective Paper Rad, and Wightman has a PHD in music composition. Their work examines the experience of living in the 21st century, specifically borrowing from internet culture, the 1980s, tween culture, and YouTube.
“RIP one of the greatest bands since Mozart,” Ciocci yells as they launch into an unrecognizable but highly entertaining rendition of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” I can finally catch R.E.M.’s melody toward the end of the song as Ciocci drones “That was just a dream” over and over. I begin drinking from my flask.
They end with “The Final Ending to Harry Potter,” which begins with the eerie tinkling theme music and transforms into a metal-tinged synth freak-out.
Afterward, I wander through the VIA complex and eat a Cantina taco from their stand outside (the carnitas are excellent), coming back in for Brooklyn’s Light Asylum. Industrial fans behind the set-up push fog out from the stage and I can hardly make out the two shadowy figures behind their equipment. Orange light tints the fog and creates a hazy atmosphere for their dark keyboards and chilling, deep vocals. The bass blasts air out of the speaker next to me and my hair stands on end.
I can’t get into their seriousness as much after Extreme Animals’ absurdity, so I impatiently scan the crowd for nothing in particular. I want to dance and no one is dancing.
Around 12:30, the crowd finally starts to move, my flask is empty, and I figure it’s as good a time as any to drop the hit of acid in my purse. My handwriting starts to deteriorate.
For the next two hours, we the crowd make up for all the dancing we weren’t doing earlier. Acid or not, everyone is shaking their ass to beats that araabMUZIK creates on the fly. araabMuzik’s Abraham Orellana of Providence, RI knows his way around a drum machine better than most drummers know their drums.
The energy remains as Blondes comes on. Their ethereally repetitive synths paint pictures in my head, while I lose myself thrashing around in a bath of warm light. The combination of ambient lighting, fast yet soothing music, and the warmth from the undulating audience makes me forget briefly where I am and what I’m doing. There’s nothing to do but dance.
The Brooklyn duo proves to be the perfect nightcap. After their set I’m jelly-boned and ready to go home, though still energized by the sensory explosion inside where the after party continues to rage. Before leaving VIA’s enchanted enclosure on Broad Street, we smoke one last cigarette beneath the pink glow of a spotlight, comfortable in the night’s breeze.