Monday, December 12, 2011

Orchard Lounge 2011.12.10 Vagabond Miami, FL

Not many places in the country can brag about a mid-70 degree evening half way through December, but in Miami this climate fact is a justification for the location. That kind of logic can also be applied to traveling musicians that want to escape their Northern strong holds for a respite in a tropical paradise of sorts. It doesn't hurt that the Magic City is musically inclined and on a Saturday night the city folk are ready to lace up their dancing shoes and let their hair down. On tap this past weekend was a Chicago three piece DJ collective that goes by the festival-familiar nomenclature Orchard Lounge. A blessing of perfect weather, a free buzz from Grand Central's Absolut party and a mind for getting down on the get down with one of my more favored electronic groups was where my head was at when my taxi arrived downtown. 
Comprised of Ben Silver, and spouses Spencer Lokken and Bethany Lokken, the trio has spent the last eleven years building their Chicago-based funky down tempo space disco party sound. Their dynamic of personnel switching out periodically through an extended set opens up a rare diversification in sound exploration, but still toes the line in maintaining thematic undertones and consistent soundscapes.  The uniqueness has landed them spots playing along side just about every top tier live electronic band on the circuit. Festivals are where they made a name for themselves, but experiences from this writer has shown they really shine in intimate club venues with unsuspecting on lookers.
In other words, sonically speaking, the experience is often contingent on the atmosphere of the audience in play. The Vagabond shares a block with the likes of Miami's famous dance club Space, but the area surrounding the club borders on gritty neighborhoods like Overtown.  Although repping a sketchy vibe, the setting of an underground danceplex specializing in a mixed crowd hell bent on late night shenanigans should have been a sure bet.  In truth, this was a perfect venue for Orchard Lounge to strut their stuff, but the fragmented club owners made the mistake of having two other rooms open with DJs spinning. The end game was the generic hipster and hip-hop DJs outweighed the attendance in the main room where OL was on the decks.
Despite that, the patrons that did venture into the mix of colorful lights, wall projections and thumping technical house drops shuffled and socialized to the mix. Spencer got the ball rolling closer to 1 AM, and then passed it to Ben and Bethany after half hour runs by each. This would be repeated a couple times. Their individual approaches varied with each turn, but the beats never stopped and seemed to get better as the night progressed. Of course, that could have been the cocktails catching up. As the early morning neared, the crowd grew thin and bored with the set. In truth it seemed to lack any far reaching directional innovation, which is usually a staple trait for the threesome. In Miami it is expected that the energy should be higher from the crowd, but the lack of that reality was most likely the cause for a standard set. Usually this would be grounds for OL to bust out something special, or will their overt talents into the ears of those fortunate enough to be in the room.  Despite that, anything pumping from the minds of Orchard Lounge is still worth the ride. Mark it an eight.

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