You could call Ricky Eat Acid (birth name: Sam Ray) an OG at this point – the Maryland-based musician has been cranking out a singular, all-encompassing form of laptop electronica since 2011, far predating the current wave of bedroom experimentalists. His latest, the Terrible Records-released Talk To You Soon distills many of the styles he’s flipped through into a stunningly cohesive LP – footwork, ambient, hip-hop, lo-fi folk, and noise all make appearances, usually within the same track.
This past Friday, in the crowded line for Ricky Eat Acid’s Los Angeles show at Union, I got to wondering what I always wonder before an electronic show: how do you translate primarily programmed music to a live audience? When the set started around midnight, it was pretty clear this wasn’t just going to be a glorified DJ set: mixers, keyboards, vocal processors, samplers and more were splayed out on a table with Ray turning knobs and sliding faders to add an improvisational nature to his tunes.
While Ricky Eat Acid’s eyes mostly stayed fixed on his instruments, his constant nodding and dancing to his own music showed both seriousness in his craft and confidence in himself as an entertainer. Uptempo tracks like “Hey” and “Nice To See You” riled up the dancefloor, while “Pull” (originally from Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs series) showcased his more somber, reflective side. But the biggest marker of Ricky Eat Acid’s live incarnation is Ray’s ability to engage the audience – he would crack jokes, give thanks, or compliment someone’s shoes between nearly every song, always with a sly grin on his face.
Electro-rapper Kitty (also Ray’s wife) watched the performance from a giant inflatable flamingo on the other side of the stage, as Ray had done during hers – they would periodically exchange a smile or laugh, and it wasn’t hard for the audience to get caught up in the joyous vibe of it all. It was a nice reminder of the difference between a concert and a show — a no-frills presentation of music, vs. an engaging all-around experience. Now, which sounds more fun?
Words: Zach Bilson