Swimming electronica

Local electronic duo Tentacle Boy was booked at the 400 Bar thanks to YouTube.

.”It’s a pinko oasis of idealist youth who think they have something to prove,” said Tom, a concert-goer at the 400 Bar on Thursday night.

We had been talking about the Midwest noise scene, specifically in urban areas like Minneapolis and Milwaukee. I asked him what he thought had spawned the rather large underground scene in our area.

Tentacle Boy

Next Show:
WHEN: March 8
WHERE: The Beat, 1414 W. 28th St., Uptown

What was it about our humble metropolis?

“Something to prove” was the answer he gave me while we smoked cigarettes just outside the doorway.

It’s true, but not just for noise. I suggest for all art forms. Bear with me here. This isn’t a very original idea. An artist having something to prove is like a baker having dough.

We all have something to prove.

Tom had come to the show to support the opening band, Combat Astronomy. I was there to check out the buzz behind local electronic duo Tentacle Boy. A friend of mine had given me the heads up on these guys, so I checked out their MySpace and I liked what I heard. I was also impressed by a music video they had produced. It was made for their song “Nobody,” a melodic synth laced tune with a subtle 4-4 beat. I asked Adam To, Tentacle Boy’s fresh faced 19-year-old lead singer and keyboardist, to describe their sound.

“It’s a lot of layers with subtlety and simplicity as our model. There is also a strong percussion background, but we don’t think of ourselves as a dance band.”

“It’s more heartfelt with a different dynamic,” he added.

This was the first club gig for the young duo. Chris Sexton, 20 years old and the other half of Tentacle Boy, met Adam To in grade school and they have been friends ever since. They played together in various bands throughout high school and now when working on songs Sexton does most of the drum programming and sequencing, while To adds vocals and synth parts.

It was their video that got them noticed and reportedly (I confirmed this when I talked with them) they were asked to play Thursday night’s show after the guy that does the booking for the 400 Bar checked out their video online.

“We got kind of lucky and we’re just going to go for it. We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity,” To said about the request to play at the 400 Bar.

“It motivated us to start putting material together for a show.”

In black and white, the video features a fight scene, a briefcase that glows when it’s opened (reference Pulp Fiction?) and a dirty, trashy, moth-infested garage. My one critique is that there aren’t other people partying with them in the garage. If they tossed up some extra psychedelic lights and added a sound system they would have a great venue for an all-night dance party.

Early in the evening I was milling around the bar as another opening act went on. People kept filing in and it looked like it was going to be a good turnout. Nobot finished their set and New Oceans, the final opening act, readied the stage for their performance.

“It’s like Midlake with balls” said Paul Hirte referring to New Oceans. Hirte, a regular at local shows, also runs the Minneapolis music blog morecowbell.net.

New Oceans played a rousing set, one of the guys sounded a bit like Bright Eyes, in a good way, and the drummer was skilled and played tight. I especially appreciated the ring of the open hi-hat on their first song; with everything else going on it came through crisp and clear.

After listening to their first couple of songs I stepped out for a gyro. I wanted to get something to eat before the main act went on. By the time I got back, it was about 11 o’clock and Tentacle Boy was setting up.

Their set seemed to go off without a hitch and the quality of the songs rivaled what I had already heard from them.

They had good stage presence, their energy was up, and the crowd responded.

To, wearing a long-sleeved flannel shirt and sunglasses, serenaded the audience with smooth vocals. Sexton played bass and controlled the rhythm section via keyboard and laptop. A good comparison would be Death Cab for Cutie or Postal Service. Electronic ticks and tacks, mingled with rolling basses, and harmonious synths to dance out of the speakers and into the mind of the listener.

Check out MySpace and search Tentacle Boy to see the video and hear some of their music.