Photo: Taylor Soppe
On a night when San Franciscans peer at Amazonian tree frogs and uninterested caimans behind thick-paned glass with unironic PBR’s in hand, Jason Chung became the most scrutinized exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. Better known as Nosaj Thing, the Los Angeles beatmaster was the main attraction at the weekly Thursday menagerie, Nightlife, ringing in the event’s 21st birthday and the 2013 Noise Pop Festival.
If anything, it was a venue of low expectations. Thursday nights at the California Academy of Sciences are a time to sip an overpriced IPA after work, rub some sea cucumbers and maybe vibe to the musical act before the strict 10 PM close. Your night’s not going to be a bender. It’s certainly not Mighty or, for something more familiar to Chung, LA’s Low End Theory, where he refined his shadow-fed sounds in the witching hours of early Thursday mornings. Which is why Thursday’s Nightlife show was so odd. Removed from his familiar darkness and thrown into an 8:45 set between the Rainforest biodome and planetarium, Nosaj Thing was out of his element and he showed it.
The musical portion of the show started without mishap, with Giraffage and his always tasty DJ set warming the crowd. Chung took the stage 8:50 according to schedule, setting up shop on a nondescript black foldout table before going to work without so much as a greeting. Not as if he needed one, though. The crowd had swelled to a good 250 people, all of whom had stopped their museum wandering to ingest first offering, “Home” off Nosaj Thing’s sophomore album of the same name.
But from the start, it didn’t feel right. Standing in front of a facade of fern foliage and hooded in all black, Chung was exposed in the light, especially when lacking his awesome trademark visuals. Nor was the sound up to snuff. With only a pair of speakers projecting to a cavernous hall, only those in front could feel the total effects of the life-sucking bass drops that fans pay to test the limits of their ear drums. Add to that a few technical mishaps–Chung’s computer stalled on the transition to “Eclipse/Blue” and you have one unhappy artist.
Later tweeting, “anxiety” after his set, Chung showed the effects of his discontent. Looking like one of the taxidermed deers in the safari exhibit, he was caught in the headlights, trooping through favorite “Fog” and his popular remix of the xx’s “Islands.” Then, less than 40 minutes into his set, he walked off stage, leaving his laptop to play on loop. With the crowd completely confused (there was a good half-hour before closing time), nightlifters ambled about before a rogue fan took to the stage to showcase some amateur beatboxing. It was an abrupt and totally bizarre ending.
Nosaj Thing returned about five minutes later after leaving. Yet, instead of the “encore” everyone was hoping for, he pulled out the auxiliary cords without a glance to the crowd, slid his Macbook Air into his backpack and slinked off. Gone as quickly as he came.
Nosaj Thing- Home (download)