Trinumeral pushes all the right buttons

by Ryan Snyder

the triad music scene

IT’S ELECTRIC: Trinumeral pushes all the right buttons

Some of the filthiest grime imaginable inundated the 940-acre Deerfields retreat outside Asheville for three days, only no one seemed to mind. More than 2,000 freakers descended upon the scenic natural reserve this past weekend to worship at the Temple of Boom as the Trinumeral Music & Arts Festival put in its ninth successful turn. The electronica-heavy festival featured dozens of DJs and electronic artists across multiple genres, including dubstep, down-tempo, house, drum and bass and, of course, grime, but it was oftentimes the more organic arrangements that drew the greatest anticipation.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the juiciest parts of the schedule came at the wee hours of the morning, with sets sometimes raging on all three stages at one time. The three-night fest kicked off Thursday with double dips of Disco Biscuits’ side projects, as bassist Marc Brownstein and keyboardist Aron Magner’s trance-y sideproject Conspirator gave the crowd all it wanted, though guitarist Jon Gutwillig’s dubstep experiment, M80 Dubstation, preceded rather unconvincingly.

Thursday sets spilled into Friday and one of the most anticipated blocks would come later that night. Lyrical acrobat Gift of Gab, the voice behind underground hip-hop outfit Blackalicious, spat his hyperactive socio-political verses with awe-inspiring agility around dinnertime before posting up on the keg backstage for the remainder of the evening. Later, the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra gave easily one of the most visually pleasing sets of the weekend, as bandleader Marshall Allen and his 12-piece ensemble, all clad in brightly-sequined dashikis, sailed through an interesting balance of acidlounge vocals and cat-skinning jazz wind and horns. Allen celebrates 51 years in the band and still doesn’t claim seniority over baritone sax man Charles Davis, who cofounded the group in 1955.

The preeminent billing of Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussein couldn’t overcome a nitwitted call from the main-stage manager, as an incendiary performance from the three masters was waylaid by his call to end the set just as Fleck returned to the stage for an encore. Meyer’s brilliant bass work was the talk of the rest of the evening, though it was a shame that the three-headed, buttonpushing assault from the Glitch Mob was limited to a mere hour. They worked the crowd relentlessly from the opening mix of TV on the Radio’s “Red Dress” to their closing tribute to DJ AM, while on the Pond Stage, jazz wunderkind Adam Deitch pounded the skins alongside the dirty mixes of Break Science.

TheSaturday evening schedule wasn’t quite as loaded with must-see shows asthe previous evening, but quality was still undeniable. While most weregetting funky on their laptops, the New Mastersounds did it old-school.The British quartet’s throwback funk served as a reminder that peoplestill dance to live instruments, while their instrumental cover of theSneaker Pimps’ “6 Underground” left everyone playing “Name that Tune.”In classic Brit fashion, their dry-as-toast stage banter kept the crowdin stitches. The Flying Skulls’ Pond Stage was also completelymesmerizing, but not just because of the music. It’s hard to say whichvideo playing on the giant projection screen behind them deserves tophonors, but the looped, slow-motion video of three Sir Mixalot-approvedbottoms in thonged leotards performing what appeared to be a stripperworkout routine might edge out the stop-motion animation of Ken andBarbie dolls in various compromising positions.

Theypush boundaries at every turn, but the Saturday night performance byToubab Krewe might go down as one of their most memorable sets ever.With guitarist Drew Heller manning the keys for the first time in theband’s history, they almost sounded like a completely different band.The afrobeat and roots fusion that has propelled them to the NorthCarolina musical elite gave way to an unexpected cabaret sound thatcaught the crowd off guard. Their set took an even more unexpected turnwhen the band introduced an army of laptops, only to engage in a littleTownsendian iconoclasm in the end. Their percussive jam began bypushing buttons instead of beating skins and eventually starteddrumming on the laptops themselves. Before long, the laptops wereobliterated and the crowd was absolutely losing it.

Thelast great set of the weekend came an hour later on the main stage, asDJ/producer RJD2 put on an exhilarating instrumental hip-hop set.Standing between five turntables and a bag full of records, he queuedup one beat after another, beaming every time he put together a mix heknew was good. He was followed without intermission by up-and-comingbeatmaker Pretty Lights, though this performance left a lot to bedesired. Without his drummer Corey Eberhard sharing the stage, each cutresembled that of his albums a little too closely.

Therewere whispers all weekend about Taiwanese DJ Mochipet, who was to takethe Plateau Stage at 4 a.m., but never showed. No matter — Asheville’sDJ Bowie went on as scheduled and was still spinning as some werepacking up to leave the following morning.

Despitesome credentialing issues, the ninth Trinumeral festival was remarkablywell-structured compared to the talks of abysmal disorganization theprevious year and the crowd, however medicated they were at any giventime, was good-natured and pleasant. There were talks of a stabbingThursday night, but it was actually a bottle broken over the head ofsomeone trying to pull the power from a stage. Good-natured, indeed —just don’t mess with their good time.

Legendary producer RJD2 works multiple turntables during his 2 a.m. Trinumeral set. (photo by Ryan Snyder)