Douglas Appling, the electronic producer better known as Emancipator, played a sold-out show on a soaking Saturday night at Celebrities Underground on Nov. 25th.
Doors were at 10, and by that time there was already a sizeable crowd. The long line-up combined with the rain had complete strangers huddling together under a canopy of shared umbrellas, bonding over their love of Emancipator, and it all felt very Vancouver.
The typical November weather was especially fitting because much of Appling’s music seems to be inspired by the cold of winter, which is reinforced not only through the music’s moody atmosphere, but through titles like his debut album, Soon It Will Be Cold Enough to Start Fires. With temperatures dropping into the single digits, we’re already there.
Appling was in Vancouver for the Loci Records Showcase Tour kick-off, which was in support of the label he founded in 2012. Aside from the headliner, the tour featured Tor, Edamame, and Lapa, and you can tell Appling curated the label himself because the sound and style of the others, while still standing on their own, didn’t fall far from the Appling tree. That’s not criticism either- it’s because the artists complement each other so well.
It was around 1:00am by the time Appling hit the stage, but he wasn’t alone. He was joined by Ilya Goldberg, who pulled double duty at the show, opening as Lapa (which is the name he uses as a producer) before playing the violin throughout the entirety of Emancipator’s set.
Although the full ‘Emancipator Ensemble’ didn’t come this time, Ilya’s violin performance gave the headlining set a much greater level of movement and dynamics than if it had just been Appling behind the boards. The musicians’ instruments were also a nice contrast- as Appling worked with the electric and electronic exclusively, Ilya was playing what looked like an acoustic violin with either a mic or pick-up.
What’s interesting is that Appling also played the violin when he was younger, before moving on to the electric guitar, drums and bass. His pairing up with violinist Ilya Goldberg just makes sense, given how heavily strings feature in the music, and what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall during one of their jam sessions!
Together, they played through a swath of selections drawn from Emancipator’s six releases, and my personal highlights were “Anthem” off the debut album, and the mash-up of MGMT’s “Kids” with “Truman Sleeps” from Jim Carrey’s The Truman Show.
The sold-out crowd was interesting because even though it was packed full of people, most were dancing in their own world, getting lost in the music. I’m sure that’s partly due to the majority of the music being instrumentals, because the transitions between songs were so smooth they practically melted into each other, to the point where you suddenly realize it’s 2:15 am and the show is almost over.
The venue, Celebrities Underground, felt more like a basement party with the low ceiling and exposed rafters, but it was a more intimate space that worked perfectly with the vibe of the music.
A good test of a show is to see how much you listen to the music in the days after the concert and Emancipator has been in heavy rotation ever since. The Loci Records Showcase Tour definitely succeeded in its mission to introduce a few of the label’s up-and-comers, all while reminding me why I started listening to Emancipator in the first place.