There’s something about The Greek that allows it to elevate a good show to a great show. Whether it’s the location, the tall, steep bowl shape, the columns lining the back of the stage, or the oversized pit area, the venue creates a sense of intimacy not usually found in other Bay Area venues.
Last Friday, San Francisco-based ambient post-rock group Tycho was the latest artist on The Greek’s summer lineup. On tour in support of their third album, 2016’s Epoch, Tycho delivered a gorgeous set characterized by their understated downtempo sounds. To somebody who has never heard it, Tycho’s music is best described as soothing and organic – slow progressions of layered dulcet tones reminiscent of other electronica artists, but less tech-sounding. Think: more Explosions in the Sky, less Jean-Michel Jarre.
On stage, Tycho were radiant as they played most of Epoch with some cuts from Awake (2014) and Dive (2011) mixed in. Frontman, composer, songwriter, and producer Scott Hansen is a San Francisco native, and Epoch was recorded in the East Bay, giving the show a celebratory homecoming vibe. Hansen’s expansive, lo-fi compositions spilled off the stage, stripped of everything except the musicians and their instruments.
Instead of a complex stage design, Hansen, who moonlights as visual artist ISO50, projected visuals – of people, of landscapes, of shapes and colors – across the bare back wall and columns of the stage. In the absence of a stage show, Tycho’s music was left to speak for itself. In a sense, Tycho are better off without a stage show – the group’s music is so stripped down to begin with that it’s taboo to complicate it with massive lasers or stage pieces.
The show at The Greek was one of four shows on a small West Coast tour with co-headliners Todd Terje & The Olsens, the Norwegian DJ and producer. Watching the two groups play back-to-back makes for a pleasant juxtaposition. Tonally, the two artists are miles apart – where Tycho turns to carefully layered smooth tones, Terje embraces fun, bouncy beats and a jaunty production style; Tycho moves you, Todd Terje makes you want to move; Tycho are introspective, Terje is extrospective. Somehow they work together, and to an interesting end: In one night at the Greek, I felt like I ran the full emotional gamut.
Tycho and Todd Terje’s North American tour has ended. This Friday, Beck plays The Greek.
Written by Jordan Aronson