Electric Six Bring ‘Heartbeats & Brainwaves’ to Los Angeles

Detroit's finest make their celebrated return to the land of Lost Angels for a dance-epidemic rock bonanza.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud


Electric Six are designed specifically to appeal to your sense of amplified absurdity, to provide a danceable soundtrack to your 90s dance-moves showdown in your backyard wearing only a paisley scarf and acid washed Z. Cavaricci pants. After all, when your breakthrough track is a hundred-mile-an-hour speedball jam about a trip to a gay bar, you get to make your own rules in the rock n' roll funhouse. 

Led by hilariously acerbic frontman Dick Valentine, the band’s relentless work ethic results in roughly an album a year (they're up to eight now with the just-released Heartbeats & Brainwaves), followed by marathon tours to promote them. As a result, these boys are no strangers to the Key Club in Los Angeles. Friday night was the latest stop on the Sunset Strip, and despite little fanfare for the new record the club was packed in anticipation of Detroit's finest making their celebrated return.

If you’re not familiar with Electric Six beyond that silly "Gay Bar" song, all you truly need to know is that they are an intentionally gaudy celebration of the absurd, embracing disposable culture through a romantic lens and manipulating it to serve their disco-metal synth pop whims. This music is best for the kind of dancing one would only do after a trip to the costume store and about nine mojitos.

Taking the stage in suits and smiles on Friday night, Valentine, Tait Nucleus, Percussion World, Johnny Na$ional, the Colonel and Smorgasbord got to work warming up the crowd with the snappy synth wash of new track "French Bacon," which roars to life in live performance in ways only hinted at on the new album. We were then led through an alarmingly sexy set of the band’s numerous danceworthy hits, inducing laugh-along audience participation with signature jam "Danger! High Voltage" and the latest number to achieve immortality, "Down at McDonnelzzz":

The night's highlight came during "Clusterfuck," a sexed-out rendition of the highlight track from their Zodiac album. Prior to the song, Valentine explained that Electric Six had been around the world, and was involved in a "doing field work for the United States government, as part of a cultural exchange program with the Chinese government and the Spanish government." He said this three times over. Some were weirded out, others were doubled over laughing. But within a minute of the song's start, the Key Club floor was bouncing like a trampoline.

Dick Valentine is the musical equivalent of a faith healer on snark-laced ecstasy, an undisputed king of deadpan non-sequitor one-liners and master of ceremonies. His knack for the obtusely hilarious narrative is truly the cornerstone of the band’s essence, and the sincerity with which he hugged the entire audience after the show was as humbling as it was awesome. 

What makes Electric Six unique is that they’re masters at taking you places you’re not sure you really want to go, that feeling you get just before the acid really kicks in, that discomforting hyperawareness where you’re not entirely sure if things are meant to sound/look/feel the way that they do. But you know there's no turning back. You've bought the ticket, now take the ride. 

With Electric Six, it's always a good trip.