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Ratatat @ The Electric Factory with Hot Sugar.

January 27, 2016
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RatatatKB02 Text by Kyle Bagenstose. Images by Teresa McCullough.

About 45 minutes into Ratatat‘s rescheduled set at the Electric Factory Sunday night, I became Napoleon Dynamite. I was undoubtedly the dork of the packed crowd: showing up with blue jeans tucked into thick snow boots and badly in need of a shower after a weekend of shoveling, surrounded by a raucous crowd of intoxicated teens and 20-somethings, the air thick with weed.

But despite my best efforts to stand along the wall and simply observe, there was my right snowboot, uncontrollably tapping faster and faster as the electronic/dance/rock/jam/whatever duo from New York City ripped through a seventeen-song set. By the end, Ratatat’s Mike Stroud and Evan Mast had transformed me from a tired wallflower to a giddy, head bopping fool, just like the rest of the thousands of others who had made the excellent decision to squeeze one last bit of enjoyment out of a snow-covered blizzard of a weekend.

And what a treat it was. Ratatat played the same room in 2011 after releasing their fourth studio album, LP4. While that was entertaining, their showmanship and production has grown by leaps and bounds as they now tour after the release of their first album in five years, 2015’s Magnifique. I thought it was cool enough when a pair of intense, white laser beams shot forth from the stage as the duo took the stage playing “Pricks of Brightness,” (notice the connection) but as the show progressed, an array of stunning visuals had cell phones out and trained on the effects.

There was the clouds-like effect of smoke being caught in the air by a wide, ceiling-like laser on the ode-to-relaxation that is “Drift” (again, notice the connection), crazy kaleidoscope bird heads on “Grape Juice City” (complete with bird chirping on the electronic track), and mesmerizing, multi-colored, strobing laser beams firing everywhere on “Nightclub Amnesia.”

And, oh yeah, these guys know how to make music. Eschewing any vocals in favor of their signature sound of “reverse guitars,” Stroud and Mast let their instruments do the emoting. Throughout the set, Mast primarily mans the bass and Stroud the six-string, as they layer those sounds onto recorded percussion, brass, strings, keys, bells, and everything else they fit into their music. But, they also switch into playing those live: floor toms, keyboards, and even pedal steel on “Supreme,” which actually inspired many of the crowd’s couples to begin slow dancing.

This is the wonder of Ratatat: each of their songs transport the listener to a new place. One minute you’re throwing up the Devil’s Horns as Stroud shreds through the climax of “Mirando,” the next you’re grooving through outerspace with Mast’s bassline on “Nostrand,” the next you’re disco dancing to the electronic sounds of “Shempi.”

Now with brilliant visuals to match the beautiful layering of the music, Ratatat’s 75-minute set was a whirlwind of dance, rock, and all around wonderment that provided the perfect punctuation to Philly’s snow-laden weekend.

Prior to Ratatat’s set, the crowd was warmed up by Hot Sugar, the stage name of New York’s Nick Koenig. One could see why, as Koenig is similarly styled as the headliners, working mainly from a MacBook and effects board but working in live instrumentation from a six-string and bass. While the set inspired the front portion of the crowd to movement at times, Koenig’s cave-like sounds and trippy background visuals were more subdued than Ratatat’s rousing presentation.

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