Just shy of an hour south of campus, along a relatively quiet downtown Ventura street lies the Majestic Ventura Theater, a 1920’s-style hall that may deserve its self-styling as “the best venue between Los Angeles and San Francisco.” The space is relatively expansive while maintaining a worn-carpet, up-close intimacy. Its gold-moulded proscenium and oversized chandeliers provided a zone for Ratatat to transfigure into a funky discotheque with thumping bass, breakneck guitar licks, heavy synths and spacey lasers.
Despite having been active for over a decade, the duo of multi-instrumentalist DJ’s (consisting of guitarist Mike Stroud and bassist Evan Mast) are still probably most known for their production of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.” Over the years, they have created an impressive body of work spanning five LP’s, the latest of which, Magnifique, released earlier this year, ended the band’s five-year hiatus. Although response to the release has been critical of its sonic similarity to their earlier efforts, their older catalogue releases still hold up. While their sound hasn’t dramatically or innovatively metamorphosed since their hiatus, Ratatat has continued to make the music that they want to make, which is evident through the gusto with which they conduct their live act.
Opening for the night was associative music artist Hot Sugar, a semi-awkward DJ strumming guitar chords over electronic tracks composed of altered found sounds. He chilled on stage in front of M.S. Paint visuals and could’ve benefitted from a live band, but definitely offered a view from a unique corner of today’s drenched electronica scene. And then Ratatat came on stage to unassumingly turn the casual shuffling into a sweat-powered dancehall.
Each of their albums was well represented in their set Sunday night, a cross-discography jam session featuring obligatory hits like “Loud Pipes” and “Seventeen Years,” Classics classics like “Lex” and “Wildcat” and the more experimental fare off LP’s 3 and 4 including “Mirando,” “Neckbrace” and “Grape Juice City.” Stroud and Mast weaved tracks from Magnifique through the set including the title track and singles “Cream on Chrome,” “Abrasive” and “Nightclub Amnesia.”
After supporting the release with such high-profile gigs as sets at this year’s Coachella, Governor’s Ball and Hard Summer festivals, it was a real treat to watch them whip their sweat-matted locks on a stage like the Majestic. The pair took full advantage of the space’s quaint roominess, connecting with their audience via their raw, fast-paced strumming while dazzling with multi-colored shapeshifting laser displays that danced in sync with their synths, cutting out swirling swaths of dust and smoke. They were flanked by plastic screens upon which were projected images ranging from morphing geometric shapes, to exploding marble Greco-Roman sculptures, to hundreds of cut-and-paste parakeets cocking their heads about to the beat.
Though this set up seems hodgepodge, it was far from hectic; in their music, Ratatat trims all the fat while performing, presenting an energetic act without excess or clutter. Mast and Stroud pull this off by silencing ego, just two quiet, long-haired, bearded white dudes in T-shirts, anonymous twins pulsing with the cross-pollinated energies of the audience and their own music, allowing their hands and strings to do all the talking.
Ratatat is a band that celebrates the blending of disparate themes, marrying with their unique sound funk, psych rock, electronica and hip hop; in a performance that itself married the spectacular with the intimate, they allowed the audience in to become members of that groovy equation.