Decibel Festival, a five-day electronic music and multimedia binge, can be daunting to even the most seasoned techno fan. So how would a newcomer even begin to navigate the 175+ artists with names that are mostly consonants? (We're looking at you, XXXY. You too, CFCF.) Even if you think OMD is a condition that requires a Ritalin prescription, there are still a variety of events worth checking out. From one newcomer to another...
*Artists you may actually recognize*
Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you know Kimbra. She’s the “Somebody That I Used to Know” girl on Gotye's hit single. But don’t judge her solely by her guest appearances. Her danceable electropop songs are superior to those of her duet partner (sorry, Gotye). Sept 26, Showbox at the Market, $25.
These guys are techno and rave culture godfathers. Orbital was providing the soundtrack for British club kids sucking on laced pacifiers back when the latest wave of electronic artists were sucking on actual pacifiers. Sept 27, Paramount Theatre, $40.
The acclaimed queen of neo-soul and huge headdresses has taken her talents to the Cannabinoids, a project made up of Dallas musicians and producer that pushes her signature style in a digital direction; count 'em: eight laptops, three turntables, six keyboards, four drum machines, and a Theremin onstage. Sept 28, Paramount Theatre, $40.
Maybe the least traditional electronic artist on the bill, the recent Spin feature subject laid the groundwork for hip lo-fi electronic subsets like chillwave by being his own weird self. And that self is really, really weird. Sept 28, The Crocodile, $22.
Experimental instrumental hip-hop's growth can largely be attributed to DJ Shadow. His 1996 debut album Endtroducing… was named one of Time magazine's 100 greatest albums and he's since gone on to work with the likes of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and the Beastie Boys’ Mike D. Sept 29, Showbox SoDo, $29.
*Things you could learn*
With all the dancing on the calendar, Decibel patrons will need to find some time to rest their legs. The Conference at Broadway Performance Hall offers some down time with a full program of panel discussions. Explore the world of making music for video games two nights in a row (Wednesday’s “Your Next Album Could Be a Video Game” and Thursday’s “The How and Why of Videogame Scoring”); find out how to spice up a live show from two-time World Champion turntablist DJ Shiftee; or learn how to get attention in the crowded musical marketplace from OK Go’s digital strategist Mike Rosenthal. I guess it starts with clever titles: “We Can’t All Wear Mouse Hats: Creating the OK Go Brand and Imagery.”
*Parties you could rock*
While we were all taught from a young age that water and electronics don’t mix, Decibel has found a way to work around to Mom’s sound advice. For those who don’t want to wait until the sun goes down for the fun to begin, Decibel has expanded its party boat series from two to four days. These daily cruises around Lake Washington and Lake Union feature plenty of techno, soul, and hip-hop to keep partygoers swaying to and fro intentionally (though wobbly sea legs double as great dance moves).
And what would electronic music be without late-night after-parties? Re-bar and Q host nightly events with artists from across the fest, including Erykah Badu and Dixon, dropping in to deejay.
(Note: Tickets to the boat parties and after-parties are not included in Decibel Festival passes and must be purchased separately.)
Sept 26–30, festival pass $115–$215, visit website for venues, times, and individual event tickets