Battles @ Johnny Brenda’s

June 15, 2008- Philadelphia, PA

Battles took the Sunday stage at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly with John Stanier at center stage. That position was appropriate as Stanier’s intense set drove this show into one of the more memorable show’s for an unusually large Brenda’s crowd. The place was packed and the IPAs were flowing as the opening band Thank You took the stage. The few songs I had heard online didn’t make me want to arrive early, but as I arrived midset, I was impressed with their performance enough to garner a second listen. But as Battles began to set up their equipment, the level of intensity of the sold out crowd to new level. Stanier, who at times seems more like an extremely focused, rigorous machine, gave a nod and with that, the stage pulsated with the surging drum pattern of “Leyendeker” (from Battles’ debut on Warp RecordsMirrored“).

As the crowd settled into what was sure to be a true experience rather than just another show, the knockout blow came from ex-Lynx guitarist Dave Konopka’s opening live-sample fustion riff of “TRAS.” This track is a personal favorite of mine, oringinally released as a single, but can now be heard on Warp’s re-release “EP C/B EP.” This release combines the 2004’s “EP C” and “B EP” EPs (say that 10 times fast.) The updated version of this classic blew away the crowd and opened the flood gate to the Battles full catalog of songs. To no disappointment of new fans, they ripped through more familiar songs, “Atlas” and “Tonto,” while ramping up to a intense version of “Race In” which begins with the sweat flying off the arms of an already soaking wet Stanier, as he sat with his head resting only slightly above his kit for the concentrated snare rim click intro.

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Not to be overlooked is the architect behind many of the tracks, ex-Don Cab guitarist Ian Williams. William’s masterful use of finger picking and keyboard playing defies ambidextrous logic. Rounding out the quartet perfectly is Tyondia Braxton (son of avant-garde jazz musician Anthony Braxton), who also plays guitar/keyboard and creates live voice samples through a multitude of effect pedals (as seen above). Battles is a must see live set, not to be soon forgotten by me or the crowd at Johnny Brenda’s.

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