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City Arts Fest Day 2: USF, Big Spider's Back, Vox Mod

USF are the artists formerly known as Universal Studios Florida. (Turns out the name was already taken by Universal Studios in Florida.) The t-shirted Seattle duo of Jason Baxter and Kyle Hargus began their Friday night set at Chop Suey with a pre-recorded, overly-dramatic spoken word intro—always the best way to start a DJ set—lifted from one of their namesake's former promotional campaigns. The disembodied 1950s voice sternly welcomed us to paradise and it made us feel like we were all about to ride the log flume. Cloud visuals sped over the stage backdrop of a white bedsheet held up with beige packing tape like we were at an impromptu show in someone's basement. Wires snaked across the table as sampled Far East strings were plucked, a live electric guitar was noodled, and drum-kit hits were triggered live with drum-sticks. Tripped-up shakers and looped Balearic guitar filled the room as USF created before our very eyes an enticing electronic sound that was sun-bleached and glacial at the same time. This is what you would hear the moment you stumbled upon a secret beach hideaway. You'd want to stay there forever.

Seattle's Big Spider's Back makes dream-like, benevolent music. Dressed in a sweater and jeans behind a stickered MacBook and a desk of minimal kit, he built soft pulses and slo-mo chimes as his fingers carefully walked down a tiny keyboard and his washed-out vocals chillwaved out of the speakers. You couldn't make out a word of what he was saying, as the mic had more reverb than a $2 Craigslist karaoke machine, but it one repeated phrase sounded something like “Sand mane! I'm your telephone!” Big Spider's Back's gentle twinkling and layered synths recalled a warm journey of ants on their way to find a better life. Expect more from this young scientist: he's definitely one to watch.

Local producer and SPORTS drummer Scot Porter aka Vox Mod was a last-minute replacement for Blue Sky Black Death who simply announced on Twitter 5 hours before they were due to go on stage that they had canceled tonight's performance. Porter nodded and head-banged along to the music as he threw synth-heavy, instrumental hip hop bass at the crowd peppered with skittery Southern rap hi-hats. Epic soundscapery formed the backbone of his tracks that would be a fitting soundtrack to watching 300 years worth of time-lapsed sunrises over mountains in a couple of minutes. Vox Mod ended his set in a wall of bass that made our eyeballs vibrate.

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