All photos courtesy Maria Gotay

The city of Portland isn’t known for its electronic music scene, but you’d have been fooled at the sold-out Nicolas Jaar show last week. Jaar, a Chilean producer and electronic artist based in New York, is best known for his edgy touch as part of dystopic psych-jam duo Darkside, appearances at electronic music festivals around the world, and his NY-based record label, Other People.


He rarely tours his live set but with the arrival of his September LP Sirens, he took a long overdue visit to the Pacific Northwest’s trendiest town. The Wonder Ballroom, one of the city’s best mid-sized venues, took a night off from its pop bookings to experiment with Jaar’s wall of sound. The floor was flooded in fog, bathed in white light, and packed with backpack-toting goth girls shoulder-to-shoulder with PDX’s unique brand of nature hipsters. It drizzled on the street, but inside, it was dripping with sound.


As Jaar ripped through his experimental dance set, fans may have recognized sharp, sexy drops from Sirens, 2015’s Nyphms, and 2011’s Silence is Only Noise. But the set was more than just a dance party, as he paired textured rhythms with fluid melodies, then poured drone on top. His varying influences – techno, jazz, classical, gospel – were revealed in urgent bursts between rounds of  grimy, metallic beats.


Throughout the set, Jaar slowly built a narrative, folding in mysterious textures and synthy storylines from his ambient record Pomegranates, allowing for moments of spontaneity. And while it’s questionable how much of his live set was improvised versus practiced, one thing is for sure: there was nothing predictable about it. The syncopated cocoon of the concert was filled by a crowd with equal parts awe and invigoration, as the crowd was split between those meditating and dancing hard.


Jaar never stopped playing, allowing for an immersive and uninterrupted live electronic experience. 80 minutes and two encores later, the crowd was glowing under streams of stage light, hollering for more. Jaar crafted an ingeniously captivating live performance that was as transcendental as it was dance-worthy, a rare gem in a rock n’ roll city like Portland.

Click through for more pictures of the show or catch one yourself:

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