As Travis Stewart strutted onto the Troubadour’s stage with a red guitar, it would be easy to confuse him for a rock star–doubly so after the night’s two electropop opening acts. But it’s apparent that he’s something entirely different as soon as the music starts: drums worthy of the night’s aggressive Red Bull branding, keys that would fit into the locked grooves of a house DJ set and–yes–that guitar picking away. This blend of ingredients isn’t surprising, as Stewart’s work as Machinedrum has fused the sexy strains of R&B, pulverizing rhythms of jungle and breakneck speed of footwork to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
At the Troubadour performance, he was celebrating the release of his ambitious and well received LP, Vapor City. With drummer (and old collaborator) Lane Darrington at his side, Machinedrum expertly chopped up samples and his own live guitar work, played flowing bass lines and let his (surprisingly great) vocals work together to bring Vapor City to life. Visuals by the influential UK-based label and design group LuckyMe provided the backdrop, as they showed glitched-out landscapes depicting each of the record’s tracks, similar to the video for lead single “Eyesdontlie.”
The set’s pacing became more and more frenetic as it went past the album cuts into a world that walked between a wild, party-rocking DJ set and a more polished “live” set. BPMs ticked upwards, both for the tunes and for the audiences’ heart rate as Machinedrum unleashed older tracks from the Room(s) EP and other various remixes (including this corker from San Francisco-based EPROM) Darrington admirably kept pace. People danced harder, screamed louder and basically freaked out. When the house lights went up at the end of the night, people were still riding high from energy and trying to piece together what they had just witnessed: Live set? DJ set? Button-pushing? Debates aside, Machinedrum definitely rocked the crowd and made them dance.