The crowd was already bustling when Portland, Ore. openers Onuinu started out the night with its own cocktail of cerebral electronic pop. Space on the floor became less open as Plush swelled with more people waiting for Tycho to take the stage.
It's interesting how music translates from practice to performance -- especially in the case of Tycho. Scott Hansen shifted back and forth from synthesizer, MacBook Pro and guitar while Zac Brown provided deep bass grooves and Rory O'Connor backed on drums. Listening to Tycho is a satisfactory reminder that there are humans behind the pleasantly ambient but never generic electric music.
The crowd of about 200 was robustly receptive when Tycho played "Dictaphone's Lament," after opening the show with what Hansen later told me was "an unnamed new remix" of another artist's song, and therefore a bit of a secret.
As welcoming and responsive as the crowd was, dancing broke out only sporadically throughout most of the set. Rather, most of the spectators stood and experienced the show as if in a trance, many of them staring up at the stage, as Hansen and the band performed behind a projector that seamlessly discharged images. During "A Walk" Hansen was draped in multi-colored projections that evoked forms seen through some sort of psychedelic telescope.
Despite being immersed in imagery and light, Hansen never broke concentration during "A Walk" -- a perfect standalone summation of how vibrant Tycho's music is live. Brown's bass work resonated from the floor all the way up to one's throat -- but in the most noninvasive way -- while O'Connor kept his eyes anchored toward the ground as he pounded out supplementary beats. In combination with the motley montage of geometric shapes and dewey photographic projections, the passion and energy that was omnipresent between the musicians found a parallel with the audience as well.
Sans lyrics, Tycho provides a unique sonic experience. While there's plenty of electronic influence in contemporary music, there's often a harsh artificiality that accompanies it and serves as an accent. With Tycho, it does not matter if the music is coming from a guitar or Hansen's computer. He and the band manage to blend each sound together and expand the definition of an instrument in a sleek manner.
It makes complete sense that Hansen is also a graphic designer in the way that he juxtaposes the projected visuals and musical patterns to persuade listeners to start creating their own organic visuals of colors. The result is an uncommon approach to listening to and experiencing music.
Faking out an end to the show with "Hours," Tycho rounded out a 10-song set comprised mostly of songs from "Dive," the artist's most recent studio effort, released last year. As light refractions of ocean waves washed over the band, its San Francisco roots became most evident at the end of the night.
When the band returned, Hansen broke his silence for perhaps only a second time during the entire evening to say he had returned to play three more songs, "only for St. Louis." Even throughout his quietness on stage, the appreciation toward the audience was profuse.
Before the house lights went up and Tycho had finally disappeared, a two-man chant had already begun, insisting on "10 more songs!" Not a bad response after a first show in St. Louis, not bad at all.
Past Is Prologue