GESAFFELSTEIN at the Aragon Ballroom Chicago

Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom Chicago
Sat 11/16/19

Gesaffelstein’s superb dance music leaves you entranced, with visuals and an LED backdrop that is breathtaking to witness live.
Outside of a PA glitch a quarter of the way through the show, with Gesaffelstein marching through it without skipping a beat- a flawless show from beginning to end.
A sophisticated and prominent DJ, with a classy look that borders on anonymous, what with the costume, the face mask, the hair, all adorned in Vantablack, Mike Levy (Gesaffelstein) has serious thought in mind when presenting his style of EDM, and what to present to his audience, and leave them reeling in wonderment when exiting any venue he plays.
This is a show, a performance, devoted to high concept.
A show meant for the sophisticates and the one’s in the know.
This is a sound and visuals better suited for the apocalypse, and if it’s the last show you ever see, you’re going out with a bang.
The full throttle visuals build when he hits the stage, flanked by his two boards of equipment and samples and keyboards.
This is a show that’s four on the floor with panicked beats and a fondness for haunting melodies.
Even Gesaffelstein’s stage name has a purpose and a meaning. Gesaffelstein is a portmanteau combining Albert Einstein and also the Wagnerian term “Gesamtkunstwerk”, which technically embraces and means “total art work”. When thinking and comprehending that, then the next logical step is to remember and salute the German synth group Kraftwerk, and how much they mean to Gesaffelstein in style and sound.
You can tell that Mike Levy has studied a lot and embraced Kraftwerk in some detail, and that part of the idea of his presentation when performing live is his ability to create an all encompassing concept of shock and awe, uplifting his music  and uniting it with his followers.
Striking and cinematic in scope, with a “what will Gesaffelstein do next” kind of attitude evident throughout this performance.
Gesaffelstein is not a celebrity evident kind of guy. Not much on social media, not much even with his online home page.
Yes, you can google him and get bits and pieces.
But the attraction is in the riddles with all the “why’s”.
Not obsolete, not out of date. Very much in the present, but with a style that’s fresh and clean, and memorable in so many ways, without having to succumb to the awful squeaks and squonks of so many prominent DJ’s of today.
So in regards Gesaffelstein’s show and the use of the world’s darkest material known as Vantablack: Vantablack is the darkest black in the world. It absorbs light, at least most of it, making it insanely tricky to capture him live and sharp when photographing his performance.
Even the autofocus on my camera, a high end Nikon D5 is caught off guard on occasion, not being prepared for facial features and expressions, like a usual concert.
It certainly comes off as a trick of the mind, with Gesaffelstein appearing to look like a monolith, like a Prince of Darkness.
Gesaffelstein’s costume, his face mask, his hair, even his flanks of keyboards are covered in the material.
To say this is quite expensive would be an understatement.
Can only imagine the costs involved in transporting the whole set up from show to show, and keeping the Vantablack material intact, since it’s so obviously delicate in nature.
Yes, Gesaffelstein is there, front and center, with actually a quite simple setup. But also nothingness is there as well, which is why he chooses to use the substance in his visual performance.
So Vantablack, a man made substance, is primarily used in space applications, which also holds the world’s record as the darkest substance made by man.
In precise technical terms, the substance in use with Gesaffelstein is called Vantablack VBx2, created by Surrey NanoSystems, and their Production Resource Group.
Al the coatings for Gesaffelstein were maximized to full effect, engineered in Europe, sprayed in New York, and then battle tested in Las Vegas to see if it could be workable.
So the premiere unveiling of this was at Coachella this year, and then some of the same production qualities was brought on this brief tour through the states, with a stop at the Aragon in Chicago.
So you have the Vantablack present with Gesaffelstein, and you also have the massive automated vertical LED walls in high resolution directly behind him, along with a light wall which hides a solid column of blinding strobes.
At the Aragon, the contrast of light and the oh so super dark Vantablack was sometimes so intense that a photographer like me, who’s been in the business of music photography for over 40 years struggled with photographing the event.
Talk about being immersed in the experience.
I have to see Gesaffelstein again. And again and again.
The performance was that sophisticated / awesome.
A genuine forward thinking shit kicker.
That’s Gesaffelstein.
Cheers- Bobby Talamine – Music Photographer

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