On Thursday, for example, Pharmakon got loud and gross in the club while John Maus treated The Plaza, where most of the bigger acts performed, to his new live show. When the unexpected absence of Elysia Crampton, who was scheduled both to perform and to lecture, cast its shadow over Saturday evening, London's GAIKA came to the rescue, playing his opening song twice—apparently he'd not expected to be asked for an encore. A clear highlight of the weekend, it was the set I heard most people name as their favorite. As if my feet weren't already tired, TEKLIFE's Mel G and DJ Orange Julius of Mall Music followed it up with a playful back-to-back of sputtering live edits, including one of Washed Out's "Feel It All Around" that caused probably the fastest double-take on a dance floor I've ever seen.
Sunday had more trouble in store for the brain and the ears than the feet, indulging harsh noise, visual and performative flourishes, plus a little conceptual thickness from the elusive Yves Tumor and Arizona favorites Marshstepper. Bringing it home with the last set of the festival proper, Container gave the crowd's ringing ears a very fun, if not sympathetic, dose of hardware therapy.
The real height of the weekend's weirdness and intensity, though, came at the end of each night, when those in the know would file down the street to take a shuttle to a campy hillside venue overlooking Tucson. These afterhours parties, held in collaboration with Phoenix's Ascetic House as part of the collective's traveling Threshold series, offered an expertly calculated balance of coherence and chaos, simultaneously an extension of the festival and a showcase of Arizona's unique scene. Via App played a killer set here, blending blown-out drums with tinny ambience in her trademark fashion. The wee hours of Monday saw VIOLENCE moshing in the dirt wearing only a loincloth, with onstage help from J. S. Aurelius. Arizona was well represented, first with Omeed Norouzi's aqueous club music and Tendril's squelching pedal techno, and then with Memorymann's rubber-masked footwork set, which saw him riffing his MPC like a guitar.
Dancing directly in front of the yurt-like stage to a drunken and versatile DJ set by Jock Club and Halcyon Veil's Collin Fletcher until well past sunrise, I somehow didn't notice until the music cut that I was the last man standing. I wandered around the cliffside, chatting with other desert natives and tourists fighting the urge to pack it in. I don't blame everyone else for going home—after four days and nights of listening to some of the best and weirdest music you can hear in a dark room, there was a lot of magic to sleep on and energy to store up for next year.
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