At the Electric Owl on Saturday, August 4
Anyone who chooses to wear a fuzzy animal suit in the summertime is signing up for a weird psychological paradox. Whether you’re Mickey Mouse or the San Diego Chicken, it must be hard to reconcile what the job calls for—namely, bringing joy to young people—with the discomfort and inherent shame of life inside a stifling plush outfit. Just ask Orlando Higginbottom, who spent last Saturday night dressed up like a dinosaur and thrilling a few hundred barely legal Vancouverites, all the while looking like the most miserable guy in the room.
Higginbottom, who records as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, seems to revel in contradiction. There’s the friction between his colourful outfits (candy-coloured dinosaur suits for concerts, elaborate headdresses for photo shoots) and his otherwise grim English demeanour, and the conflict between his sad-sack lonely-boy lyrics and the pumping electronic beats they’re set against. No matter how dissonant it might appear on paper, the Oxford native’s approach has succeeded terrifically, both in his home country (where his songs air regularly on BBC Radio 1) and in North America (where he’s being counted on to put a face on the largely anonymous EDM boom).
There were seats aplenty to be had at the Electric Owl last Saturday evening, but only because everyone was on the dance floor, partaking in the sensual thrills of being unburdened by life and nouveau hip. With confetti cannons exploding periodically above them, the mostly college-aged revellers sweated away while TEED tended to a tableful of gear and served up his sweetly melancholic bangers.
The singer-producer’s show seemed mostly prerecorded, as he cued up tracks on his laptop and then embellished them with the occasional keyboard part or drum-machine workout. Sporting an aqua jumpsuit with flared ridges crowning his head, the 26-year-old paced the stage joylessly with a microphone in hand, a scientist tending to his laboratory tools as if no one was watching him.
Two songs in, three energetic ladies jumped on-stage to shake their own tail feathers, but young Mr. Bean cut them off curtly, shutting down the music and instructing them, in a stern singsong voice, to get off his stage. While he could use a few lessons in how to charm groupies, this son of an Oxford University music professor could give a master class in the synthesis of EDM and pop, hits like “Household Goods” and “Trouble” offering proof that it’s possible to make computer music to tuneful and genuinely emotional effect.
In recorded form, TEED’s songs variously recall the Junior Boys’ falsetto-spiked electro (“Tapes & Money”) and the Postal Service’s mopey digital folk (“Fair”), but on-stage Higginbottom invoked the maximal pleasures of ’90s Underworld, his reedy voice riding a colossal swell of beats that bounded restlessly from jacking house to uprocking electro to full-on drum ’n’ bass. For just over an hour, the Englishman presided over a torrid dance-music history lesson and the place went berserk. All the while, his boyish face poked glumly through the top of his costume, betraying the particular sadness that only mascots and clowns can understand.