Despite the fact that concerts usually attract large crowds, they can be oddly nonsocial experiences. Being surrounded by strangers—even strangers who are fellow fans of the band—usually results in annoyed thoughts such as "If that guy steps on my foot one more time, I swear I'm gonna lose it" instead of any meaningful social interaction.
Go to a Beats Antique show, however, and there's a chance you'll have a conversation with a concertgoer about more than their propensity for invading your personal space.
At least that's one of the goals of the Oakland, Calif.-based electronica/world-fusion trio's current tour, Creature Carnival. By encouraging and facilitating various forms of audience participation in the show and creating a sensory-stimulating concert experience, Beats Antique hope to foster a judgment-free environment where fans can interact with each other, forget their troubles and get weird, as they'll be allowing themselves to get a little freaky, too.
"I think that oftentimes bands are so serious or are so worried about their image," says drummer/producer Tommy Cappel. "We really don't care. We just have fun, and I think that our stage show sort of represents some of that. It gives it a balance. There are moments where we go full-on deep, and other times we go full-on weird."
It's not a coincidence that Beats Antique—belly dancer extraordinaire and choreographer Zoe Jakes and multi-instrumentalist David Satori complete the lineup—are now embarking on a tour that's essentially serving as a much-needed break before they hit the studio again. Their latest project, A Thousand Faces: Act I and II, completed in April and inspired by Joseph Campbell's monomyth about the journey of the hero, was a massive two-disc concept album that spawned an equally massive multimedia tour. Unsurprisingly, A Thousand Faces "was such a huge undertaking for us that it kind of tired us out, which is kind of why we're doing [Creature Carnival], because it's more fun," Cappel says.
The Creature Carnival tour will be a can't-miss experience for longtime Beats Antique listeners. To build the setlist, the band will be remixing and creating mashups of past songs from their entire undulating, tribal discography, which features internationally inspired elements as diverse as North African electric guitar, Middle Eastern violin and gypsy-jazz horns. In typical Beats Antique fashion, the tour will be visually rich as well, with new dance performances and costumes and also resurrected stage pieces from other tours, all united by a circus/carnival theme.
In short, it'll be a show that pushes the boundaries of what a show can be. Known as a captivating festival act, Beats Antique are "taking what we like about festivals and putting it into a venue," Cappel says. Since they're co-headlining with fellow electronic musicians/producers Shpongle, Emancipator and Lafa Taylor, it's "a more intimate setting than a festival, but it's a bigger, sort of more overblown setting than just a normal show," he says.
And a big part of that festival-like atmosphere will be audience participation. "We want to inspire people to have fun even if it's just for one night," Cappel says. "We're sort of giving them that platform."
Attendees are invited to download and print out their choice of creature mask from Beats Antique's website and wear it to the show, or visit the on-site "creation station," where they'll be provided with materials to make a mask or whatever strikes their fancy, as well as meet and perhaps even collaborate artistically with other fans. One element of the Thousand Faces tour that Beats Antique is bringing to Creature Carnival is the game-show segment, where a volunteer is chosen from the audience to come up and play the game, and is then attacked by a 30-foot inflatable cat that the band calls the "dubstep kitty."
Sure, it's all a little silly, but Beats Antique believes that people need a little silliness sometimes, at least for the duration of one concert.
"I think there's so much intense shit going on in people's lives and in the world," Cappel says, "that any moment that any person can have that's not that, I think is really awesome."