Ten minutes past 11 PM… anticipation feels the historic Hollywood Palladium. Fans are anxiously awaiting Crystal Castles’ sold out return to the 3,700 person capacity venue. Less than six months ago the Canadian electronic duo played to another packed crowd, and that show only helped to build the hype around tonight’s engagement. With the artwork to their latest album (III) covering the back of the stage, the lights slowly pulsated and dimmed over the crowd. Smoke enveloped the audience, obscuring the presence of front woman Alice Glass on stage. The other half of Crystal Castles, Ethan Kath, stepped out of the shadows to his standing keyboard. The bass kicked in, the huge colored spotlights poured over the crowd, and the outstanding track “Plague” from their new album screamed through the Palladium.It’s been many years since we have seen Crystal Castles live. The last time we saw them they were opening for Nine Inch Nails back in 2008. The electronic duo was scarcely heard of at that time. Since those shows, the band has created a dedicated following that swears by the band’s live performance as it’s claim to fame. Of course over the past five years the band has achieved acclaim with their three album releases, but the buzz has always been around what it was like to experience the music live. As “Plague” burst through the Palladium, two things became instantly clear. First, the Palladium who hosts live electronic dance music acts fairly consistently, wasn’t going to be up to the task tonight of handling the rumbling bass coming from Ethan Kath. Second, this was going to be a chaotic mess on the floor of the venue. The crowd was packed in, and before Glass could scream “I am a plague!” fans were falling on top of each other in the middle of the pit. Chaos- but in the way where you can’t stop smiling and enjoying it!
Crystal Castles throws something between a rave and rock concert live. The energy rips through the crowd from the heavy bass that Kath produces and a live drummer who handles the higher parts of the range and occasional crashing cymbals. The show is nothing though without Alice Glass. Half of the time she is on stage, and the other half she is recklessly crowd surfing or fighting her way back to the mic. No artist gets a better workout during their sets than Glass. She took a slight break on “Crimewave”- the track that most people first heard the name Crystal Castles associated with. Their collaboration with the band HEALTH was their breakout track in 2007. Live it offered a moment of respite from the chaos of the Crystal Castles version of a rave with a live drummer and vocalist.
The highlight of the night was “Sad Eyes” from their latest album. The track pushed forward like a mad race during a Hollywood chase scene. The audience swayed back and forth as fans jumped in the air to catch a glimpse of Glass and Kath- their outlines formed mysteriously amongst the strobe lights. One second she was there, the next second Glass was ten feet on the other side of the stage. Like a stop-motion animation movie, the strobe lights distorted movement and reality during the set. As you journeyed around the Palladium you could see pockets of fans experiencing the music their own way. In the back ring around the pit in the middle were 30 somethings dancing solo. Couples held each other in another section, as if watching an R&B act perform. Eyes wide open, eardrums throbbing, smiles all around.
The Crystal Castles live experience is one that you truly have to attend. For the sold-out crowd in attendance it was a party and one of those shows that you mark on your calendar and wait for in anticipation. “Affection” was a fitting song for this night. The almost pop tune floated over the venue and echoed off of the second level of the Palladium. But when it came time for the chorus, the Palladium was moving in unison to the synth carrying the sound. The fans love Crystal Castles, and their legend is slowly growing amongst the ranks of must-see live acts. The Palladium is almost the perfect venue for their huge light show and growing fan base, and it’s a tribute to the Toronto duo that they push the limits of the speaker levels at the venue. With two shows in six months, it seems as if Crystal Castles is carving out a home at the Palladium in Hollywood. That’s good news for the rest of us.
Featured image shot by Derek Cabral, One Nation. More shots can be found at the gallery here.