Photos: Michael Bleggi
As Ethan Kath and Alice Glass, better known as the Goth-glitch duo Crystal Castles, approach the side of the stage at Roseland Ballroom, one of the many photographers who is gearing up tries to approach both members to give them a fist bump. Kath who’s wearing his signature skinny jeans and hoodie combo, politely but begrudgingly concedes and gives the man a quick pound before turning to climb up the side stairs. Glass however, who is sporting chin-length purple hair, a worn green jacket, black skirt, stockings and a pair of white-framed sunglasses, barely gives the guy a glance. Leaving the photographer hanging with his fist hanging limply in front of him, Glass crouches down to the ground as Kath and the group’s touring drummer Christopher Chartrand take their positions on stage. As the audience’s excitement reaches a fever pitch, Glass meditates on the ground only for a moment or two before rising and climbing up on stage, now being fully overtaken by the demon that will drive her to the absolutely ruthless performance that lay ahead.
Crystal Castles on record are a two-piece but combined with Chartrand’s propulsive drumwork, the three become a 2012 version of the power-trio. Kath mans the boards with expert precision and timing on stage-right while Chartrand punds away in the background shrouded in a cloud of smoke. Meanwhile in the front, Alice Glass now has full range to go buck-wild, freely moving back and forth between hushed coos and Earth-shattering screeching.
Using the microphone stand as an anchor for the first two songs, the thunderous new track “Plague” and the complementary “Wrath of God,” she tosses it and spends the majority of the show using the crowd as a mic stand instead. Spending more time resting her body atop the crowd than the stage, Glass dove, kneeled and stood upright on the audience numerous times, seeming to only return to the stage to grab a swig of whiskey (which during “Baptism” she spit back onto the crowd) or to assist Kath on favorites like “Vanished” and a revamp of their HEALTH collaboration “Crimewave” (HEALTH themselves played a pretty invigorating opening set earlier that night).
The light show accompanied with the chaos between Glass and the audience helped the night swirl into a state of beautiful madness, with an array of strobes and purple flashes flickering among the wafts of smoke as the band ripped through dreamy stompers like “Suffocation,” “Untrust Us” and “Not in Love.” Sinewy flashes of red and green burned through on thrashers like “Doe Deer” and “Alice Practice,” the former having a beat sounding as if the listener is being riddled with bullets.
Despite the impending release of their new album “(III)” at the beginning of November, the band kept the main set mostly clear of new material, zigzagging between their first two albums which kept the audience’s energy at a 10 the entire time, the crowd forging together in a giant mess of freeform dance. New songs were saved for the encore where they played four incredibly promising tracks. One song contained the delicate touch of some of their most accessible singles like “Celestica” while the others knocked with great dance-floor pumping ecstasy.
When all was screamed and done, the crowd cheered and chanted for “one more song,” but there honestly could not be room for even one – the band played with such power and vigor that any additional encores could not have lived up to the hurricane that had just passed through the ballroom. With “(III)” on the horizon though, it’s with great hope that this New York audience can bask in their violet glow again in the very near future.