Shpongle the Masquerade @ The Majestic, Madison

I just got back The Majestic and it was another fantastic time put on by Simon Posford, otherwise known as Shpongle. This is the third time I've see him DJing some fantastic tracks from his back catalogue, and every time he always pulls out something amazing of his I hadn't heard before.

DJ sets

The first time I saw Simon performing a DJ set was almost exactly two years ago in Minneapolis. He was at the Epic event center, formerly The Quest. His 4th album, Ineffible Mysteries in Shpongleland, was just released and his set consisted mostly of those tracks, along with Shpongle's entire catalogue. I finally heard some of my favorite songs live, and the "new" song I heard that night was "I am a Freak".

"I am a Freak" is by Younger Brother which is Simon Posford and Benji Vaughan. Younger Brother is also part of Simon's record label, Twisted. And Benji Vaughan also performs as a solo artist, Prometheus, also on the Twisted record label. That night, Simon also performed a couple songs from Hallucinogen in Dub. Hallucinogen is Simon's psytrance persona, and Hallucinogen in Dub consists of psydub remixes by Ott, also on the Twisted label.

After that night, despite playing all of my favorite Shpongle tracks, I realized his DJ sets were more of a showcase for his label with an emphasis on Shpongle. Which isn't a bad thing at all. This gives him PLENTY of content to work with and build a unique performance every time.

Last year, Simon went on a full fledged US tour with his stage contraption known as the Shpongletron. He played a fantastic set of original songs, remixes, and plenty of other songs on the Twisted label. That night he played another spiffy Younger Brother song I hadn't heard before: the Cicada remix of "All I Want".

And tonight, it was another unique Shpongle experience. His set was full of remixed Shpongle tracks, and he only played a few original versions of the songs. His encore was freakin' incredible. He played some fantastic psytrance beats layered with an Irish tone. It was amazing how well those two sounds complemented each other. I was off the ground, and hopping around to that tune. Fantastic!

Simon was in a group called Celtic Cross back in the day, so maybe he pulled a song from the single album they produced. His encore felt live an overall medly of Shpongle tracks though, so maybe he just mixed or mashed something in at the end.

Also, the audience was restricted from any audio recordings during tonight's performance. It could be that Simon was road testing some new material for his upcoming 5th Shpongle Album. I definitely heard plenty of Shpongle-like tracks tonight that I hadn't heard before, and didn't sound like remixes either. I'm definitely looking forward to that new album.

Stage Presence

Another unique thing about each Shpongle performance has been the stage presence. In Minneapolis, Simon toured with the dance troup Archedream for Humankind, which performed unique dances tailored to each Shpongle track performed by Simon.

Last year, the Sphongletron absolutely blew my mind. It just looked like a dumb weird looking setup when we first walked into The Majestic, but the Shpongle head attached to the front came to life when it was fully illuminated. The projected face on the stage setup moved, twisted, and contorted along with the music. It was so bright and lifelike that it actually looked like it was moving on stage. You can see this in some video I took here.

The Sphongletron experience was definitely my favorite time seeing Shpongle. :D

Tonight, Simon was back with a new contraption known as The Masquerade, I guess. It was much larger, and had much more canvas for the projector to paint onto, but it was nowhere near as amazing as the Shpongle head on the Sphongletron. The Masquerade had only visuals moving about the white canvas, rather than the canvas actually moving and contorting.

It was still an amazing time, though. All 3 of these performances were unique and amazing.

Shpongle in America

It's pretty great that he's roaming around the US quite a bit these days. I first came across Shpongle just after he released Tales of the Inexpressible, his 2nd album, in 2001 and really wanted to see him live. But he never toured. At least, not in the US. He'd do shows in Europe, and Australia, but never in the US. And now he's been through the midwest each May for the past 2 years.

AND his DJ performances have improved quite a bit over the last 2 years. In 2010, it just seemed like he was playing track after track without a whole lot of transition between them. Last year, he's been stitching the tracks together much more fluidly. And this year, it was all a choreographed set. The underlying tone flowed throughout his entire performance, and each track got its spotlight. He's improved quite a bit!

Definitely check Shpongle out if he comes to your town. :D