I have seen better concerts in Central Oregon, and I have seen bigger crowds.
But never in my six years covering music here have I experienced a more amazing scene than the one that swirled around Beats Antique's performance Saturday night at Bend's Midtown Ballroom.
Certainly, there are people in town who will tell you they weren't surprised that the San Francisco band — a fat-bottomed fusion of global sounds, electronic stomp and beautiful belly dancing — packed the Midtown with 1,200 people.
But I am not one of those people. If that means I'm not plugged into whatever omnivorous scene Beats Antique is a part of, so be it.
I had heard of the band. I knew they were popular. And there was no missing the buzz that surrounded this show in the days and weeks leading up to it. But still, Beats Antique has a mid-sized profile, plays smaller rooms than the Midtown in bigger cities than Bend, and had never been to town before.
As I often say: This, folks, is why I don't book shows.
When I pulled up to the Midtown at 10 p.m. Saturday and saw a line of hundreds of people stretching up Greenwood Avenue and around the corner onto Hill Street, I was shocked.
And then I got inside and found hundreds more already in and enjoying opening act Filastine (who was great, by the way).
Here is what that crowd looked like: Burning Man types with goggles perched on their heads. A few indoor hula-hoopers. A guy in a large, feathered mask. A number of youngsters seemingly inebriated and definitely acting silly, perhaps drawn in by the current white-hot surge of electronic music.
There was a guy dressed head to toe in pink spandex. A group of women wearing lots of fur. Bass addicts who spent all night high-fiving the air. A sizable contingent of belly dancing enthusiasts.
And a startling number of people in hats: bowlers, fedoras, porkpies, even a glittery silver top hat.
All of them seemed to float off into the bliss once multi-instrumentalist David Satori, drummer Tommy Cappel and saxophonist Sylvain Carton dropped into their deeply rooted groove, one they wouldn't emerge from for a couple hours.
Beats Antique's special blend is nothing if not uncommon. Cappel is a god of thunder on the drums, while Carton's horn playing has a coarse, subterranean quality that anchors the sound. Satori is a human Swiss Army knife, using violin, banjo, percussion, laptop, and whatever else he can find to add melody and texture.
The band spent the evening coating the Midtown crowd with broad strokes of earth-toned funk so bulky it probably rattled trunks in Prineville. They poured out a particularly thick and rubbery version of “The Porch,” rode a stop 'n' start dubstep-ish wobble on “Snarl Axel,” and went carnivalesque for “Grandstand,” which sounded like the theme song to an enormous gypsy's gleeful tromp through a densely wooded forest.
Later, things got bizarrely exuberant when a handful of dancers in animal masks showed up to freak out during a frenetic and confetti cannon-enhanced “Cat Skillz.” For me, that was the highlight of the night, though I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the work of Zoe Jakes, Beats Antique's lithe and captivating dancer (and occasional percussionist) who steals the show pretty much any time she takes center stage.
As if this band's sound isn't unique enough, Jakes' kinetic beauty adds an entirely new and interesting element to the show.
Frankly, I think Beats Antique's sonic patchwork sounds a bit better recorded than live, where some of the songs' cosmopolitan intricacies get lost in the band's brute strength. But when you consider the aim of this particular strain of live music — first and foremost, to make people dance — then brute strength is sufficient, really. The rest is icing on the cake.
Anyway, I thought “Cat Skillz” would've been a perfect closing number, so when Satori introduced another song as “a weird one” and the band lurched into another slow-loping groove, I decided I'd had my fill and hit the bricks, leaving Beats Antique to enjoy and entertain its room full of adoring and appreciative fans.
On the way to my car, I recalled Satori's comment early in the show that Beats Antique didn't expect such a turnout on its first trip to Bend.
At least I wasn't the only one.