I became aware of George Van Tassel‘s Integratron in Landers from an episode of Huell Howser’s California Gold. That was many years ago. I finally made it out to the Integratron with friends, Liz and Matt, about a month ago. We were there for the sound bath. It was a stormy Sunday in Los Angeles, but oddly those clouds split around Landers, while we were there. It was there we became aware of Moby’s performance on December 21st for the Winter’s Solstice. Although, I was aware of Moby’s performances at the Masonic Temple at Hollywood Forever Cemetery I didn’t connect the dots till the Integratron performance was upon me. It was apparent that Moby was looking for an unique environments for his performances.
Once I considered Moby’s theme for his performance it reminded me of the time at the Troubadour, when Frank Infante of Blondie introduced me to Arthur “Killer” Kane of the New York Dolls. It was after Dawn Laureen’s band The Eye Shadows had performed and we sat at the front bar of the Troubadour, not drinking. Of course, the topic turned to music and then to touring. I managed a Speed Metal Band for a short time and we did a small tour in Texas. Although, it was a short tour to Austin I found the process of a tour exhausting. I brought this up with Frank and Arthur, but it was Frank who delivered the killer line that still makes me chuckle to this day. Frank turned to me and said in that clip New Yorker manner, “Not, if you tour right!” I had no comeback for that coming from a real “Road Dog”! Frank’s statement had me considered how sweet a Blondie’s tours must have been like back in the day!
It’s well known that Moby doesn’t like touring. This locks in on Frank’s statement in my mind regarding “Touring Right”. I’m not going to labor how the Moby’s concert came about at the Integratron, but you can find a worthwhile read in The Desert Sun‘s “Moby: Delivers A Long-term Labor Of Love“. What I see in Moby’s choices for venues is his desire to raise the bar for performance, for himself and his audience satisfaction. Moby’s dates at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, likely inspired by David Lynch’s protegé Christa Bell’s performances there earlier this year, was part of the adventure Moby envisioned for launch for “Hotel Ambient” that included the Integratron show. Sure, the Masonic Temple at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a great “weird” place to perform locally, but the Integratron kick’s up the “weirdness” factor to the next level. LA Weekly does some nice coverage in a recent write-up, “Moby: Returns to His Chillout Roots with Sold-Out Ambient Shows“.
Moby discussed the weirdness factor to the Integratron audience with an anecdotal story about a phone conversation he had with a friend by saying, “I’m having a show in an acoustically perfect building that was designed by aliens out in the middle of the desert. There was silence on the other end of the line… And, well that’s it, nothing else. How can you top that!” This exotic space has acoustic elements similar, but still different, to sound resonance experienced in Paleolithic caves, where the primitive would create a droning noise by using percussive sounds that would allow them interact psychically with the spirit world. The Integratron lends itself to a psychoacoustic experience similar to those ancient caves dwellers with a twist on the Paleolithic transcendent resonating sounds meeting Space-Age technology or more specifically, Alien technology.
The Hotel: Ambient show emerged slightly after 7pm at the Integratron. People had migrated to their positions on the outside or on the inside of one the 2 levels in the building.There were projected live images outside and inside of Moby’s performance. The video was mixed with special footage from David Lynch for the first and second levels, as well as, the on the exterior of the Integratron. I viewed the first third of the show from the outside. I was sufficiently intrigued by what I saw I decided to head for the second floor, where all the live action was taking place. The show ebbed and flowed from atmospheric ambient pieces, with vocals from Julie Mintz and on fewer occasions Mindy Jones joined in for harmonies. Although, the performance was sedate it wasn’t static by any means. At times Moby would join one or both singers with his guitar to strum and sing along. Julie and Mindy delivered some very powerful and soulful vocals: which had great presence and vitality in that room. Moby countenance behind the podium was serene, contemplative and transfixed by the moods he was generating from his Apple laptop. Despite the unique sound quality generated by Integratron’s parabolic shape, the upper room’s sound was spot on. Moby’s top-notch media team had resolved issues with echo and the inherent resonance of the room. Everyone was engulfed in these sounds and evocative visuals only expanded the experience. Moby was reverential of the space and that respect was seen in the way he handled the performance and the way he engaged the audience on this night. He struck the right tone for the venue and for all in attendance.
At the end it only seemed fair that he treated everyone there with an encore. As he noted to the group that there’s no place for him and his crew to exit or hide for the traditional applause and encore. While he was finishing this observation about the space, as he put it “that doesn’t even have corners”, the fans spontaneously erupted in applause and cheered in light of this observation. While the body of Moby’s ambient set included “Porcelain,” and “Memory Gospel” the encore had a lot more energy. The encore included “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?”, “We Are All Made of Stars.” and the surprise of surprises that topped off the encore was grand and most inclusive thing Moby could do for his fans by ending the set with Mobility, his very first single! The concert was like having Moby perform in your living room! Moby’s performance plugged us all into his artistry and humanity by closing show with his first single. It was unimaginably cool! By this time everyone was on their feet and there was a whole lot of shaking going on. Moby dug in to the song while Julie belted it out the tune and completely gave herself over to the groove Moby is throwing down. I felt like pinching myself, was it 1990 with a psychedelic video installation rolling behind Moby in a hot NYC Rave spot. Oh, I don’t know, but it burned white-hot from there till the end in a space temple designed by Aliens. I could think of no better way to connect with the Universe!