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Mission Creek: MacMillan and Spengler @ Gabe’s 4/5/17

At 8:30 on Wednesday night I witnessed the most bizarre show I’ve ever attended. Three performances of experimental electronic synth music sounded like a fun night to groove for a couple of hours, and the venue further steered my thoughts in that direction with their EDM bumper music. But as soon as the headlining act of Macmillan and Spengler took the stage, my expectations were thrown out the window of Gabe’s second floor.

Image via Bandcamp

Ian Macmillan at his station of sound and Brendan Spengler with his organ and synthesizers delivered strange electronic sounds strung together to form a mood of odd journey while trippy black and white animations and visuals played behind them. I had no earthly idea where their set would go next from B movie science fiction sound effects to bass heavy rattlers up until the drippy end. Blue and red and orange lights danced about the stage to add another dimension to the performance. It was clear after the first five minutes that grooving was not in the agenda for Macmillan and Spengler, but rather something deep and moving. And when the lights dimmed and the bumper music came back on, I felt like I could finally relax.

Lawrence English
Image via Mission Creek Festival

While I waited for the next set, I wondered if this rabbit hole of electronic weird went deeper. And my question was answered in the form of Lawrence English. He started in the midst of the crowd and prefaced by explaining his performance would be about the problems we all face will be solved by unity. He also invited us to all lay down on the floor to experience his music. So I, along with the other curious members of the crowd, took our positions on the cool floor.

The performance that ensued was loud and abrasive, thunderous and overbearing. The sheer volume and level of bass rattled the whole floor, and I could feel the shockwave in my back and bones. I looked to the stage and saw English, at his table, illuminated by pulsing red light before it faded, shrouding him in darkness, before slowly returning to brightness. It was a totally unforgettable sight. As the performance went on my ears grew weary of the onslaught of noise, but luckily before it outlived its welcome, English brought his set to a close with a minute of soothing ambiance before the lights went out and the bumper music played.

I picked myself up and carried myself back to a table, where I waited for the third act to begin. At that point I had become totally frazzled and resigned to the unpredictability of the show, and any dream of predicting where it could go would be foolish.

Elysia Crampton
Image via Mission Creek Festival

And last, but certainly not least, Elysia Crampton took the stage with a big key-tar and a tiny synth set. Right off the bat she establishes her deviance from the first two acts by playing a rhythm and beat to her music that I even found myself toe-tapping along to.  These familiar sounds were punctuated and often interrupted by electronic booms and recording rips of laughter, strange noise, and garbled speaking. Her music morphed from something ancient and primal to stormlike, and even to the loud rattling of what sounded like gunfire until she settled down her act to end the show. It was a knockout performance of odd creativity.

I left Gabe’s that night with my ears ringing and my mind stunned. I had never seen anything like that before, nor had I listened to anything like it. With Macmillan and Spengler I was along for their ride, and with English and Crampton I felt their themes and messages resonate in me. It was a mood I totally did not expect. These types of shows are not for everyone, and require a deal of patience and open mindedness to appreciate. But I can say that these artists are remarkably unique, creative, and well worth your time.