They say dust settles but “they” obviously haven’t encountered the magical dust that’s kicked up at Burning Man every year. Fortunately for those of us who weren’t out at Black Rock City, The Playa dust doesn’t settle back down to Earth, but instead it clings to Burners and makes its way back to the places they call home. Beats Antique, known as much for their music as their magnetic bellydancer, Zoe Jakes, was a festival favorite this year and brought the energy back to Los Angeles with their Do LaB-sponsored show at King King.
David Satori, Sidecar Tommy and the aforementioned Zoe Jakes make up the Oakland trio, fusing together a curious blend of electronic, Middle Eastern, dubstep, hip hop and tribal music in a way that feels at once both past and future. If you’ve not heard of their music before you should start with a sampling of my personal favorite, Oriental Uno, to get a good feel for their sound.
My dancing partner of choice, Monsieur Smash LeFunk, made the perfect companion for my night of vaudeville-inspired, aural escapades. I stood in the second row downing whiskey and dancing my ass off in a sequin mini-skirt and tattered tank top, all the while falling mesmerized by a pair of charmed necklaces that dangled low over Zoe’s bare stomach, clink-clanking audibly against her toned stomach with each slither and shake.
She had the entire venue visually arrested every time she stepped out onto the stage, contorting her body to the beats. Antique brooch clips and feathers adorned her hair, icing on the cake of her gypsy-inspired flowing skirts and embellished costumes.
Sidecar Tommy and David held reign behind the tables spinning tracks from their new Contraption EP and even snuck in a little Michael Jackson remix. The heavy bass and upbeat sway had me in the zone all night. At the bar, men in shoulder holsters and bowler hats flirted with forest fairies who spent the night kissing and dancing with their sisters in crime and wardrobe imagination.
A Beats Antique show is equal parts visual and aural, a full-sensory experience that indulges the crowd and leaves you assured that you’re at the best show in the city that night. Their fans embrace the dusty, vaudeville lifestyle and come out to play with a collective of musicians and artists that are unearthing the lost art of imagination in adults.
“I think the appeal comes from realizing that you can do what you want, how you want, and find people who’ll support you in it,” Tommy explained to me. He was drawn into the life in 1998, when he came to San Francisco from New York City. A few guys asked him to come play music with them at Burning Man. He’d never heard anything about the festival but he went anyway and ended up, “meeting all of the people that I currently call my family.”
Beats Antique are truly living the lifestyle of the music they create. They’ve been making their way out to Burning Man for the better part of the last decade and teamed up with Los Angeles artist collective, The Do LaB, to perform a full schedule of shows at this year’s festival.
“To me Burning Man means Expression, Exploration and Dust. It blew my mind when I was 19 years old and it still does,” says David. “This year we rolled in on Tuesday night, unpacked the car, and rode our bikes over to the False Profit Tuesday party where we played our first gig. It felt nice to land and then jump right into it.”
It’s hard to believe that the group played a total of nine shows over the week. Smash was on hand for a few of their sets and brought back tales of all-night dance parties infused with fire-play and exhibition.
Burning Man has always been a very bizarre experiment in what the body and mind can take and this year was additionally challenging because of the number of shows we had planned.
Lately they’ve been mixing up their DJ sets by including more and more live instrumental performances, playing everything from the viola and violin to the guitar, banjo, drums, and even an electric sax.
Going to a show where the DJ’s are playing live instruments is unique on its own merits, but then you throw in the visual aspect with Zoe’s dancing and you really have something special. “I incorporate bellydance, pop and lock, Indian, and pretty much whatever else catches my eye,” said Zoe.
She was performing with the Bellydance Superstars Dance Company in 2006 when manager and owner Miles Copeland (IRS records, The Police, REM, etc.) approached her to make a bellydance album.
Zoe and Tommy had played together in the “hobo cabaret” Yard Dogs Road Show for years and Zoe ended up asking Tommy and David to help produce the album.
“It was exciting because we were mostly touring, live musicians up until that point,” said David.
“I started playing drums with the Yard Dogs in 2001. They’d asked me to sit in one night at The Odeon, a local circus bar, and they had one song. We played it and everyone freaked out, so we improvised a 45 minute set of circus-infused soul jams and then two weeks later I joined them on tour!” recalls Tommy.
Zoe has been performing with the Yard Dogs for five years and gives the troupe credit as being “one of the most influential groups in terms of shaping my journey as a performer. The fearlessness of its members is really inspirational.”
Beats Antique definitely knows how to put on an extraordinary show and our night at King King was no exception. After a full night of carousing with a crowd of LA’s finest, we floated out into the night smiling wide, high on bliss and escape, tinted in dusty hyper-color Playa dust.