Hauschka, Jeffrey Zeigler, and Samuli Kosminen at Pier 15
Polyphonic Spree Lights Up Bowery Ballroom

Squarepusher at (le) Poisson Rouge

by Caroline Sanchez


Photos credit: Greg Cristman

Words can barely describe the intensity of Squarepusher's Tuesday night performance at (le) Poisson Rouge. Everything from the quality of the samples to the massive LED fixtures played a role in taking the show into a whole other realm of musical creation, spearheaded by the man behind the Squarepusher pseudonym, Tom Jenkinson—an artist notorious for putting on shows that are beyond the scope of linguistic expression.

From the moment the show was announced, I had been hearing from different people that Squarepusher was an artist I "had to see live." Oddly enough, LPR's main hall was quite roomy for a show that had been given so much hype, especially considering the overwhelming response to his 2012 appearance at Webster Hall.


I arrived just in time to catch the opening act: SFV Acid, the stage name of California-based acid-house artist Zane Reynolds. It was hard to ignore the enormous, dark paneling behind Reynolds' set-up, which was unfortunate since it seemed that people were more buzzed about the upcoming production than his chill beats. I imagine SFV Acid puts on a great show in a club filled with people coming to hear his mildly rhythmic pulsing and not when he's being overshadowed by colossal, dormant video screens.

The minute those screens came to life, the audience was subject to one hell of a sensory roller coaster, as racing lights synced perfectly with bass and melodic lines. For the first 40 minutes, Squarepusher stood behind his light-up DJ desk, wearing his helmet like a crown and building and releasing tension through complex sounds and heartwrenching blast beats. The screens flashed a variety of black and white pixelated shapes and spirals until Jenkinson stepped out from behind the desk and took up his bass. Instantly the shapes changed to red, pink, purple, and blue splotches as he strummed his axe and stomped on the dozens of pedals at his feet.

Squarepusher lpr2

The second half of the show reflected the funk-jazz background Jenkinson brings to the stage. Even through the distorted tones and background noise, it was easy to distinguish his slap bass technique and virtuosic ability. Most impressive was his endurance—after a 40-minute DJ set, a half-hour bass performance, and a 20-minute encore, Squarepusher was still smiling and bowing. He stood in the spotlight without his helmet, looking humbled and incredibly sweaty.

Squarepusher is a great example of technology being used as an instrument. His light show is not a gimmick used to disguise the one-man showcase; it is an extension of the performance, the visual equivalent of seeing a 70-piece string section slice a hard down-bow. There is an innate connection between the visual and auditory responses and Squarepusher thrives in manipulating that space between tangible and intangible—even on the verge of incomprehensible. I would not feel right calling Jenkinson a revolutionary, as he is part of a long legacy of electronic musicians, but he is definitely a pioneer in the art of fusing technology and musicianship, resulting in a spectacle that is incredible to witness.