Outside Lands Night Show: Gang Gang Dance

Pub date August 25, 2009
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

PREVIEW Comparable to a mystical experience involving contact with a transcendent reality, Gang Gang Dance forges a celestial, almost cultlike sound fitted with primal drum beats that elevate listeners to the beginning of time while electro chimes simultaneously fast-forward to an unknown era.

Instead of utilizing a typical verse/chorus pattern, GGD constructs freeform songs focusing on the fusion of juxtapositions. The quartet relies on a rhythm-driven foundation as it integrates a diverse range of influences: dubstep, dream pop, reggaeton, hip-hop, grime, and art rock. Its percussion-laden sound is topped by Lizzie Bougatsus’ intense, idiosyncratic vocals.

Keyboardist Brian Degraw and drummer Tim Dewit met in 1993 at a Tower Records in Washington, D.C. — Dewit was stocking shelves and Degraw was shoplifting CDs. The pair immediately started playing together in a spaz-punk band called the Cranium. By the end of the decade, that group had disbanded and the two had moved to New York City, where they began experimenting with Bougastos, vocalist Nathan Maddox, and guitarist Josh Diamond, and were reborn as Gang Gang Dance.

In ’02, Maddox was fatally struck by lightning on a rooftop. Taking this as an omen, the remaining members began focusing all their energy on GGD. On the cover of God’s Money (The Social Registry, 2005) Maddox’s eyes peer out from behind a mask, as if watching over them.

At first, GGD improvised during rehearsals and performances. This improv approach has gradually become fundamental to GGD’s writing process. The band members play for several hours, listen to the rehearsal recordings, pick the sounds that work best, then conjoin them. Saint Dymphna (Social Registry, 2008) creates the illusion of a perfect jam session — it plays like one continuous song, with revelatory midperformance noodling sessions ("Vacuum," "Dust") interspersed between catchy hooks ("Desert Storm," "Princes").

Paradoxically, improv is no longer as integral to GGD’s current performances. But the group still transforms mood into matter. As emotive states are molded into music, they become real.

GANG GANG DANCE With Amanda Blank, Ariel Pink. Sun/30, 8:30 p.m., $10. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. (415) 861-2011. www.rickshawstop.com