by Maisey Cooley – Arts & Features Editor – firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 1,000 people crowded toward the stage, restless and loud after the 15 minute break between sets. The opening acts featured local act Sirius.B, who describe themselves as “absurdist gypsy folk funk punk,” followed with strong beats and lyrics from singer-songwriter/beat-boxer/one-woman-show Lynx, so the crowd already knew they were in for a show with sights and sounds they did not expect. Clutching their craft beers and mingling around the room, faces lighting up every time the lights changed or showed a chance of starting the show, the crowd was a tightly packed room of compressed energy. The noise dropped to complete silence, and then erupted as the red and purple lights illuminated the outside of the stage, giving bellydancer Zoe Jakes the cue to begin her enchantment. Beats Antique had sold out the Orange Peel.
They opened their set slowly, giving Jakes the chance to get the crowd accustomed to her style, while giving a teasing introduction to their music. Keeping the crowd in tune, they played up-tempo and down-tempo songs one after another, never staying at one speed or rhythm for long.
Their new album, Contraption, Vol. II, incorporates more live violin than their previous albums, creating a more emotional and direct sound, giving Jakes’ dancing an outlet beyond being just seductive or mesmerizing – the pairing of the two speaks more openly to the listener.
The intimate floor plan of the Orange Peel gives the crowd a better chance of getting close to the show than most venues, often times you can see the performers’ facial expressions from the middle of the room. Jakes’ body and costumes are not the only visual to keep your eyes on – she often wears elaborate makeup and connects with the crowd via eye contact or gestures toward the front row, making her less of just a pretty performing doll and more of an artist with a specific message for each person.
Energy coursed through the venue. Beats Antique kept their audience’s eyes on the stage and gave a show similar to a circus performance, with costumes that surprised each time the song changed. Lynx returned to the stage to perform her collaboration with Beats Antique, called “Crooked Muse,” a song about “drowning from love and all that,” according to Jakes in an interview with JamBandsOnline.com at Counterpoint Music Festival last month. Of course, this meant she needed a costume for the song. This time she would be a mermaid.
Her theatrical repertoire on stage was on point for the Asheville show, which comes as no surprise, as she is known for having up to 10 costume changes per show. During the song “Revival,” Jakes donned an outfit made of white cloth with the capacity to inflate and billow to create a perimeter around her body taking up nearly the entire stage, paired with a set of antlers on her head, elaborately decorated with crystals and delicate chains, giving her a radiant, ethereal appearance almost impossible to forget.
You knew when the show was close to ending when you looked around and saw you were surrounded by an entirely new crowd – people were moving to get closer, to find their friends and see the finale in the best part of the room. Beats Antique is familiar with how to best send your audience home happy – end with crowd pleasers. They kept the finale upbeat with their remix of California-based producer Bassnectar’s “Voodoo,” a song most of the crowd knew and cheered loudly for, as well as their own crowd-pleaser, “Cat Skillz,” and finished the night with a visual spectacle that left you not knowing whether to dance or to stand and watch – they deployed a giant, inflatable squid. Each band member put on a mask, making them a duck, lion, horse or even a lucha libre, and they all jumped around on the stage, some playing their instruments and others just having a great time dancing.
For the last visual surprise, Jakes launched what looked like a small rocket, which contained an inflatable squid so large it brushed the curtain at the top of the stage, and the band members danced with the squid’s limbs, making it the centerpiece of the party until it was time to finish the light show, leave the instruments and costumes behind and bring the night to an end.
When the lights came up, showing everybody’s faces still turned toward the stage, waiting for the band to come out for one last song, there was nothing but glowing faces. Beats Antique had put on a show that seemed like something out of a crazy sideshow performance from P.T. Barnum’s circus world, making the crowd feel like they were part of the wild, elaborate performance.