By Larisa Karr – A&F Editor – email@example.com
It’s dark and empty inside the concert hall, aside from a few lighting and sound technicians hastily rushing back and forth, attempting to ensure that everything sensory will be in its proper place when the audience floods in. On the stage, a shadowed man in a fedora is thoughtfully pushing buttons up and down while making visual contact with the sound technician sitting on the opposite end of the floor. After a few minutes, the beats begin, and the man in the fedora comes alive, yearning and jumping into each of the pulsing beats that gently shake the music hall’s speaker system.
The man in the fedora, French disc jockey and producer Jean-Christophe Le Saoût, aka Wax Tailor, is as lively in a silent room as he is performing in a huge crowd. Sunday night, Tailor performed a solo set at the Orange Peel, opening for Portland-based electronic producer Emancipator. Although he is used to performing as the headliner, Tailor decided to do what he termed a “summer break tour” before he releases his new album next fall, a tour that has taken him to fairly off-the-beaten-path destinations like Asheville.
“People in the big cities have seen a lot of things, so they’re like, ‘Go ahead, show me, impress me.’ I think in a small town people are like, ‘Let’s have some fun.’ So the vibe is better, usually,” Tailor says. “Four years ago I’ve been in the U.S. but only the express tour, like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. Two years ago, I said I wanted to do a real tour in the U.S. I wanted to go to New Orleans and Kansas.”
Tailor’s music is characterized by blending hip-hop and jazz beats, amongst many other types of music, with cinematic sound bites. His distinctively hip and recognizable version of “Que Sera” was the initial song that shot him to fame in 2005 when he released his first album, Tales of the Forgotten Melodies.
Prior to adopting his onstage persona, Tailor was master of ceremonies in a French hip-hop band that was very outspoken about various social and political issues like the death penalty. Now, although he says his music isn’t as blatantly political, he maintains his rebel yell by letting his communication with his fans influence the musical moves he makes next.
He cites an example of people in the industry telling him to make music that generated mass sales instead of making concept albums that attract a smaller audience, like 2013’s Dusty Rainbow from the Dark.
“I’m not a Miley Cyrus or whatever,” Tailor said. “You only try to sell things to people if you create what they are supposed to think. I do it because I think it’s a lot about the people and I’m not sure you’re so free if people don’t send you some support.”
On this night, the audience reciprocated Tailor’s warmth, shouting his name as he grooved from song to song.
“Asheville, are you prepared to be hypnotized?” he shouted just after beginning his set.
The spell, however, would never begin. A fire alarm that did not belong to his music unleashed sonic havoc on the building, prompting the guards to get up and state, “Yes, this is a real fire alarm. We need everybody out of the building.”
This was the true intermission. A sea of people stranded outside, huffing cigarette smoke and looking annoyed but amused, lingered while the fire department took their sweet time.
Upon returning indoors after 15 minutes, Wax Tailor was not permitted to continue his set, and as such, bid the audience a sad but heartfelt farewell.
Before too long, Emancipator came out, and the audience became electric yet again.
Lauren Debuke, a quality assurance coordinator, appreciated the layered and dynamic instrumentals that Douglas Appling, aka Emancipator, brought to the stage.
“Honestly, one of the things that I like is that they don’t really do vocals,” Debuke said.
Appling was accompanied by three other musicians on this evening, one of whom was violinist Ilia Goldberg, and this added an additional textured element to the music. They observed that the normally-uptight Orange Peel had perhaps turned into New Mountain for the evening, as there were live art installations being created by dancing audience members flailing about.
Each song flowed into the other smoothly, so the two-hour-long set had a characteristic of a languid but lively wave. Toward the end, audience members seemed peacefully dazed as they filtered out amongst the tourists and hawkers selling Grateful Dead pins.
Tyler Klefot, a computer repair technician originally from Louisville, Kentucky, described it in decidedly unique terms.
“It was amazing,” Klefot said, “It was a journey through the sonic universe.”