Seattle’s Decibel Festival, now in its 10th year, has built itself up from a small homegrown event to one of the US’s premiere underground dance parties, spreading more than 100 artists over five days and countless venues throughout the city. Despite a pretty steady stream of rain over last weekend, little could dampen our spirits for the festival’s decade-celebrating installment. Here are some of our highlights. — Ken Taylor and Steven Dermody

Wednesday, September 25

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Kode9 @ The Crocodile
Playing a set that bounced from bass and house, to crunk, hip-hop, and trap to techno and speed garage and back, Hyperdub boss Kode9 (aka Steve Goodman) reflected the future, past, and present of his eclectic label on a showcase that also featured DJ Spinn, and Ikonika. With a heavy nod to the ’90s, Goodman kept the packed, all-ages floor at the Crocodile engaged as he rocked an S4, morphing, twisting, and creating a sonic landscape that encapsulated years of experience from an extraordinary breadth of influences. It came off like an updated and remixed take on the past, with a firm eye looking towards the next fresh sound. Quality. SD


Ben Klock @ Q Nightclub
The techno force of Ben Klock took a bit of time to really soak into the walls at Q, as it seemed the venue had issues tuning the room when they switched over from the night’s opener, Light Year. The full crowd was fairly timid as Klock burst into a thud from an epic, beatless intro. The Berghain resident must have sensed as much, and went for a deeper, more trippy vibe, bringing the crowd into a trance, with people as much retreating into their own minds as moving their feet. I can’t help but think it might have been a touch heavy having Klock play the opening night, but nonetheless his mixing precision—and its result—was amazing. Plus he broke out his signature flying-hands move, which was fulfilling to see in person. SD

Thursday, September 26

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Peter Broderick/Nils Frahm/Hauschka @ Nordstrom Recital Hall
Thursday’s early-evening Optical 1: Kollaborations showcase at the lovely Nordstrom Recital Hall was an inspiring few hours. Peter Broderick is a jack of all trades, performing like a 19th-century traveling musician, and as Nils Frahm joined him onstage for their collaboration as Oliveray, the emotions in the room swung from tears to laughter and back for an hour. Their injection of humor, wit, and musical precision is nothing short of breathtaking; one moment deep into looped, emotional piano chords and layers, the next into a beat-box session of flowing, goofy rhymes while tapping and banging on anything in sight. Hauschka’s piano-and-drum-machine set was a next-level affair—like witnessing a film score unfold in real time. The most unreal part of all three performances? They were almost all completely improvisational. SD

Lapalux/Actress @ Crocodile
FlyLo protege (and stylistic adherent) Lapalux surprised us by leaps and bounds, flooring the Crocodile’s thickening crowd with his at-times wonky beat compositions, and proved the highlight of this Thursday-night showcase. However, maybe the bigger surprise was that Actress—the night’s headliner and one of the festival’s most ballyhooed live performers—failed to set the audience alight, opting for an obtuse set of woozy abstractions that would’ve been better suited to a living-room listen. KT

The Martinez Brothers @ Q Nightclub
If you’re looking for an east-coast-style party, it’s hard to go wrong with The Martinez Brothers. Young bucks Chris and Steve Martinez—the recent focus of a Resident Advisor documentary—reliably bring a mix of deeper house gems both old and new, soulful funk, flecks of disco, and bouncy techno to their caffeinated sets, and tonight’s stint at Q was no exception. KT

Friday, September 27

Resident Advisor Boat Party @ Islander Cruise Ship
The RA boat party on Friday was a jovial afternoon affair on the water, replete with grey skies, Axel Boman, and Ben UFO. The two played an hour or so each and finished the sail back-to-back. Boman’s energy is infectious, bouncing with his disco-tinged house cuts as he bossed on the mixer. The stoic Brit Ben UFO is a class selector who takes his craft seriously and displayed his genre-flipping skills with ease. The quality of the performers, plus the room to wiggle as the boat wasn’t full (blame the weather) lent to smiling faces and thrown shapes on the cozy dancefloor. It was a unique, smoothly programmed event that captured the maritime essence of Seattle beautifully. SD

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Machinedrum’s Vapor City @ Showbox at the Market
There was a definite all-ages vibe on the Showbox’s mainfloor for Machinedrum’s live presentation of his new album Vapor City, but all the same, local underage hippie ravers presented nary an obstacle for the over-21 crowd near the bar as Travis Stewart worked his way through an impressive live set, replete with his own vocals and guitar-playing and drummer Lane Barrington providing the intense backbeat. A really nice way to present what promises to be a thrilling new LP. KT

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Shigeto @ Crocodile
It’s hard to deny the appeal of Shigeto for fans of live electronic music—bring in a live drum kit, and all expectations go out the window. Never one to dissapoint, Ghostly mainstay Zach Saginaw worked his way back and forth between his electronics and his, let’s say, acoustics, having the digital vs. analog discussion in real time as he created some exasperating, luscious compositions on the fly. Naturally, it was incredibly well received. KT

Max Cooper @ Q Nightclub
Max Cooper’s latenight set early Saturday morning at Q really felt like the festival was grooving into full swing. Starting with his own remix of Nils Frahm, the ambient intro soon grew into a steady beat—and thus, the “journey” began. Making his seemingly annual Decibel appearance, the former computational biologist harkened back to the tender days of proper progressive house. Dare we see it reemerge as a power genre again? Well, if it is any bit as good as Cooper’s perfectly timed ”flirt with cheese but not cheesy” breakdowns, reserved but deadly funky basslines, and melodies that make you “put your hands in the air, and wave ‘em like you just don’t care,” then we say: Bring. It. On. SD

Saturday, September 28

Ryan Hemsworth @ The Crocodile
When Decibel’s sometimes austere beats seem to be getting the best of your attention, and all you want is a down-and-dirty party, there is Ryan Hemsworth. The young Canuck brought his signature brand of deep-house-inflected bass and hip-hop edits to a more-than-up-for-it audience on Saturday night, making the Hush Hush party there one of the weekend’s dance-your-ass-off gems. KT


John Tejada @ Neumos
Banging, machinated techno and tech house has pretty much always been the name of the game for LA mainstay John Tejada, so unsurprisingly he delivered it in droves at Sunday morning’s after-hours party to celebrate Kompakt’s 20th anniversary, alongside Matias Aguayo and Thomas Fehlmann. Tejada’s all-hardware set was revelatory, highly danceable, dark, and even momentarily funky. The perfect lead-in to a long night of Kompakt flavors of all sorts.

Nick Monaco/Juan Atkins/The Orb @ Showbox at the Market
We caught the tail end of dirtybird Player Nick Monaco kicking off Saturday night’s festivities at Showbox at the Market, where he got things going with a pretty breezy set of bumpin’ house. Dance legend Juan Atkins, however, quickly brought up the tempo, turning out some harder, darker techno that would prove to be a nice transition into The Orb’s return feel-good affair. Thomas Fehlmann and Alex Paterson are enjoying the twilight years of a storied career but they couldn’t be more relevant than they are today. As they plied the crowd with slow, chuggy trip-hop with a layer of ambient, Fehlmann and Paterson rocked the room to a united sway, finishing the set with “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” to heartfelt applause from all in attendance.SD/KT

Pearson Sound/Pangaea/Ben UFO @ Neumos
A brief sound glitch that started the Hessle Audio after-hours did not sway these young UK talents from throwing down hours of quality house and techno. Pearson Sound, Pangaea, and Ben UFO took turns tagging with three or four records a time, sprinkling in garage and broken, off-beat material. Their raw, stripped-back sound was well fitted to the warmth of the system at Neumos. Girls on Top’s banging techno mashup of Whitney Houston and Kraftwerk, “I Want to Dance With Somebody Numbers,” at 5:00 a.m, brought out many smiles and sweet dance moves. SD

Sunday, September 29


KiNK @ Neumos
The Sunday after-hours evening events had very strong programming at Q and Neumos, and the proximity of the two clubs made it easy to jump between venues. Without a doubt, KiNK was a highlight of the weekend as he created one special moment after the next. The Bulgarian’s live set featured some audience participation, total stops in the music, improvised patterns, slamming techno grooves, sublime melodies, and unparalleled showmanship. SD

Kenny Glasgow @ Q Nightclub
Back at Neumos, Kenny Glasgow was working some pleasant vibes. The Art Department member was every bit as animated as anyone in the place—comforting to see to as the energy needed to be kept upbeat at the tail of a fantastic musical weekend. Smooth, clubby house of the best kind, it was less deep than expected and really well mixed. The sound was dialed in at Q after a few hit and misses throughout the week. Glasgow took full advantage and a had blast doing so—another programming success of the weekend. SD

Photos by Nicole Browner