This past August, Oregon played host to a festival so grand and unique, nothing like it has ever been executed before. Planned around the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, organizers united 13 of the biggest and best transformational festivals from around the globe to collaborate on the ultimate summer event. Oregon Eclipse Festival grouped Bass Coast Festival (Canada), Beloved Festival (Oregon), Envision (Costa Rica), Madra Festival (France), Lightning in a Bottle (California), Noisily Festival (U.K.), Origin Festival (South Africa), Ometeotl (Mexico), Rainbow Serpent (Australia), Re:birth Festival (Japan), Sonic Bloom (Colorado), Symbiosis Festival (California), Universo Parallelo (Brazil), and Science and Nonduality (California) to each bring forth the things that make their festivals notorious for being the best in the game. Seven unique and incredible stages, as well as over 30 art installations, provided the setting for the craziest event summer has ever seen– and PK Sound was there.
It comes as no surprise that an event of this magnitude would have a massive lineup. Tasked with providing sound, stagehands and stage management for the Eclipse Stage (the largest of seven stages), the team from PK Sound spent five days working with some huge acts. Some were usual suspects and close friends. Others were acts that rarely tour or perform in North America. Troyboi, Cocorosie, Bassnectar, Emancipator, The String Cheese Incident, G Jones and Beats Antique were just a few of the artists that were there to perform at North America’s most distinct and incomparable festival of 2017.
PK Sound caught up with Jason Bruton and Tommy Cappel (aka Sidecar Tommy), the former being Beats Antique’s tour manager and front of house magician, the latter being Beats’ drum master/songwriter/pianist extraordinaire. They gave us the lowdown on ten plus years of Beats Antique, and what it’s actually like to work with PK Sound on the festival circuit.
Beats Antique got their start a little differently than a lot of electronic music producers and performers. Founding members Zoe Jakes and David Satori started Beats Antique while tasked with making belly dancing music for Jakes’ dance project. The pair made an album with the intent that the music would complement Jakes’ dance routines, and give another face to traditional belly dance music. The album did well - really well - and the pair quickly enlisted the help of Sidecar Tommy on their forward trajectory.
Since then, Beats Antique has traveled the world, collaborating with artists across the globe. They’ve put out ten releases to date, which is impressive enough, but a Beats Antique live show is so much more than just the music on the those releases. It’s a complete immersive experience. “It all flows,” says Sidecar Tommy. “Music, dance, performance art, expression.”
He goes on to tell me about the Beats Antique spectacle. “I think Beats Antique is a unique blend of performance and strange music that allows us to do what we wish and express ourselves by wearing animal masks, dressing like Donald Trump in a bikini and having horse headed ladies ride him. Or inflating a 25-foot tall dubstep Cyclops Kitty to tempt people with a life of total damnation…”
Obviously the Beats Antique live show requires a little more from a technical perspective, as it isn’t a run of the mill DJ set. There are dancers, live instruments and giant Cyclops kitties to contend with. When I ask Tommy what his nightmare audio situation is, he explains that unfortunately, it’s a somewhat familiar scenario. “I mean there has been and will be plenty of them,” Tommy jokes. “As a live band that plays a lot of electronic music events, we tend to run into some people that have never dealt with a drum set with microphones!”
Jason Bruton agrees. He tells me how genuine people with the right mindsets can mean the difference between a successful Beats Antique show and a disaster – even if they don’t have the production and technical aspects on lockdown. “I've always said I would rather have great people with a positive attitude, even with questionable gear, over the best gear in the world with a team with shitty attitudes and rock star vibes,” Bruton explains. “I'd say overall I run into the previous more so than the latter, but when Beats really shines it's because of the vibe on stage and how we’re all meshing with [the] crews.”
Oregon Eclipse gave Beats Antique a perfect setting to curate their signature vibe (with excellent PK Sound production being a bonus). Tommy gets a little sentimental sharing his total eclipse experience. “Everyone coming together from around the country and the world and having such an incredible spectacle to witness and feel together … the total eclipse was the most fluid emotional moment for me, that I could physically, mentally, spiritually feel the sadness and happiness and call to action with so many others at once ... [It was] really beautiful and memorable.”
As we near the end of our chat, I ask both Bruton and Sidecar Tommy what an audio company has to do to give Beats Antique the perfect set up. Tommy goes first. “ I mean honestly, PK just needs to be PK,” he says. “It's that kind of relationship we have with them professionally and as buds that gives me ultimate confidence when I show up and see them running a stage! There's a bond that we have from being in so many different places together - from Red Rocks, to Burning Man, to Shambhala, to whatever out of the way spot Symbiosis happens to be in. So it goes way beyond any single thing that PK does or the way it will sound - it's a deeper personal connection that I feel the second I see their truck or find out they will be on the show.”
Bruton echoes Sidecar’s sentiments. “PK has always been good to work with. Arlen has been supportive in so many ways, beyond the stage as well, and when PK is on site, I'm never worried about the team,” Bruton explains. “Like I was saying before, it's more about the people than it is gear. When it's a PK show, I'm not concerned about gear, and then I get great people. Double win!”
True to form, Beats Antique finished off 2017 with an epic New Year’s Eve show at the Midway in San Francisco. Going into their 11th year together, 2018 will surely be another one for the books. Catch them and their bikini-clad Donald Trump entourage in a city near you.
2018 will surely be a big year for Beats Antique. Catch them and their bikini-clad Donald Trump entourage in a city near you.