Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Emancipator Ensemble - Mill City Nights - Minneapolis, MN - 2/1/14 - (Review)

A Review By: Troy Manley
Sound in Motion has been a staple production company for the electronic scene in the Minneapolis area for as long as I can remember. Continually bringing in big name after big name, it was no surprise to find out they were responsible for the Emancipator Ensemble making a stop at Mill City Nights on their current national tour. Mill City Nights is a smaller venue located right in “the shit” of downtown Minneapolis. Blocks from Target Field, legendary venue First Ave, and a plethora of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, Mill City Nights has some competition for the place to be on a Friday night in a highly trafficked area. Having never been there before and reading a multitude of the mixed reviews available on yelp, a venture into the unknown was about to launched. But not before having Murphy’s law take over my life for the hours leading up to the show.
The initial plan of attack for the evening was to conquer the 4 hour drive I had ahead of me early in the day so I could meet up with friends and spend the better part of the afternoon with them. However, roommate car troubles led me to assist them and delay my trip about 2 hours. Then, as if things couldn't get any worse, I was finally ready to leave after having been “Good Guy Greg” for the morning and my car wouldn't fucking start. After a couple hours and figuring out the issue, my car was finally good to go and I could get on the road. Only 5 hours behind schedule, not bad. 

After being on the road for a couple hours I started to get into that zone where you are just spacing out, but still taking on the road like a champ, when all of a sudden I found myself in utter turmoil. I pull over to find a flat tire. It’s at this point I pray to sweet baby Jesus and thank him for the wonderful situations I had found myself in that day. Once I got that taken care of and got into the city it was already after 11 pm and the show had started 2 hours earlier. Luckily I called and found out Emancipator didn't take the stage until midnight – best news I had heard all day. I finally made it to the venue at about 11:45 – 15 minutes before Emancipator was set to take the stage – only to find out the venue removed my +1 they had initially granted me without any prior warning. That’s that shit I don’t like. After forcing my buddy to pay for a ticket and missing all of the openers, we were into the venue and ready for the main act of the night, the Emancipator Ensemble.

Portland native, Doug Appling is the mastermind behind down-tempo outfit, Emancipator. This time around, however, he arranged a touring band and took to the road as the Emancipator Ensemble. The ensemble consists of long-time touring partner and violinist, Ilya Goldberg, a bassist whose name I missed the night of and was unable to find despite internet searching  AND hitting up their PR people, and Colby Buckler on drums.

This live band joining him on stage added a whole new dimension and level of energy to the show unseen in my 3 previous outings to an Emancipator show. The bassist laid down some sexy lines all night long as if it were nothing and the drummer rounded things out playing through their set with the utmost precision.  They played through an incredible selection of tracks off all three of Emancipator’s albums, and even threw an unreleased track in there.

Although many of the tracks stuck true to their studio counterparts, some tracks, like “Anthem,” were reworked to fully utilize the 4-piece band and enhance the overall experience compared to a traditional Emancipator set where Doug and Ilya are the only two on stage. The tracks were well polished and the inclusion of live drums and bass brought a powerful energy that filled the venue and everyone jamming out throughout the entire night.

As the show progressed and it got closer to the inevitable end of the show, I began wishing Emancipator would play until the summer came and we could go outside again. After traveling 4 hours each way to see Emancipator and dealing with copious amount of bullshit between – all of which was worth it – I can truly say that you NEED to catch this ensemble if they are coming through a festival or city near you.


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