By Alison Kozol
After Tobacco’s set at the ‘Sco on September 22nd, all audience members could talk about was the weird video montage accompanying their performance. One of Tobacco’s infamous compilations of found footage, clips ranged from creepy workout videos to E.T.-inspired pornography. Tobacco’s music, like the montage, had a strange and sexually charged rhythm that kept the crowd dancing throughout the set.
Before the montage began, band member Ryan Gravestone from Tobacco’s other project, Black Moth Super Rainbow, opened the show with percussionist d.Kyler. The noisy audience quickly hushed once their first song began, remaining quiet throughout the entire set. With only a guitar and a drumset, the duo filled the ‘Sco with beautiful, whirling sound that kept the audience mesmerized.
After a short break between sets, the audience gawked at a man onstage decked out in a curly, gray-haired wig and wrinkled mask. Tobacco, a.k.a. Tom Fec, maintained his reputation as a mysterious musician who cares more about his weird, warped looping and grimy beats than acting as a front man. Fec, along with some help from Maux Boyle, d.Kyler, and Ryan Gravestone let the video montage steal the show as the group hid in the corner of the stage playing their instruments.
The set started off on a high note–Fec and Boyle launched into a noisy, psychedelic romp that got the audience moving immediately. As the crowd danced, Fec and Boyle stood stoically behind their instrument-laden table; countless colorful knobs and switches sat on top of a laptop, keyboards, a guitar, and Fec’s infamous vocoder. Every instrument was put to use: melodic synthesizers in “Truck Sweat,” looped blips and bloops from hand-made devices in “Overheater,” and slimy vocoder vocals in “Sweatmother,” the most well-received song played the whole night.
The music itself is hard to describe because Tobacco is one of the few artists today producing such a unique sound. Tobacco is Fec’s answer to hip-hop inspired electronica–a sunnier trip-hop or a darker IDM. From the minimalist techno of “Lick the Witch” to the rock-rooted “Creepy Phone Calls,” Fec and Boyle mixed varying genres into one raucous flow.
Tobacco has gained a lot of hype throughout the past year with the release of his highly acclaimed second album Maniac Meat; his performance proved that he deserves the critical acclaim. The music was mostly lively and inventive, and the presentation was captivating. Images of flirty girls popping bubbles at each other, snowplows slicing women into pieces, and break-dancing men resembling Screamin’ Jay Hawkins thoroughly enhanced the weird vibes of the music. After a while, people seemed to dance blindly and instead, watch the montage. Then again, electronica-hip-hop can’t top E.T. porn.