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Saturday, April 20, 2024
Beats Antique
Beats Antique

The crowd screamed for Zoe Jakes before it could see her.

Jakes, the belly dancer for Beats Antique, crouched behind a white sheet hanging across the Florida Theater’s stage. Harsh white backlight painted her image across a suspended canvas, a silhouette that resembled a modern-day Shiva: palms tensely faced upward, displaying inhumanly long fingernails. A trio of blades spiked from each of her elbows. Even Jakes’ intricate headdress loomed from behind the barrier.

The California-based electronic music trio Beats Antique played its first show in Gainesville at the Florida Theater Last Thursday. About 250 tickets were sold.

Behind Jakes, her husband, instrumentalist and composer David Satori, plucked at a viola, producing a high-pitched, gypsy-inspired rhythm. Drummer Tommy Cappel pumped a stream of cross-rhythmic notes on his black Tama Starclassic drum set, matching a deeper, synthesized bass line. A raspy trumpet snaked through the song’s background.

The crowd twisted to the beat, hypnotized by Jakes’ shadow.

Finally, the sound climaxed, and the sheet plummeted, showing Jakes in full costume.

Her visage was like a porcelain doll, eyes locked intensely straight ahead. Dark black hair matched the thick charcoal-colored eyeliner around her eyes and her black corset. Scarlet lipstick matched a bright red and gold dress. Tattoos spread down her abdomen and across her shoulder.

She was beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

Jakes bared her tongue, and the crowd roared in approval. It was the reaction she wanted.

“I’m an entertainer and a performer as much as I am a dancer,” Jakes said later backstage. “I really enjoy connecting with the audience and making them freak out.”

The music set her in motion. A wave of motion flowed from Jakes’ fingertips, across her arm and transcending through her stomach toward her hips. Every muscle seemed to have equal control as the dancer’s lips swayed back and forth with the rhythm.

Jakes beckoned to the crowd with 3-inch golden pointed nails that spired from each of her fingers. Bright stage lights bounced off the sapphire-, emerald- and ruby-colored ornaments that embellished her gold headdress.

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The combination of fluid grace and exotic beauty mesmerized the audience. For a moment, she had become one of the most powerful women in electronic music, all without making a sound.

“She is the most entrancing woman I’ve seen in my life,” said Caleb Herring, a 21-year-old Santa Fe student. “She’s a Hindu deity. It’s just amazing”

***

Out in the crowd, glowing neon hula-hoops and pairs of color-changing poi balls orbited through the air.

The Florida Theater attracted an audience more wild than Satori was used to seeing. It was the 33-year-old musician’s first show in Gainesville, but he was impressed.

“We have an older crowd on the West Coast,” he said. “Kids are here to party, and they’re here to have a good time and freak out. It’s a different kind of energy, but its fun to see that response,” Satori said. “After playing in your hometown for years and not ever having that many people at a show, coming to a place for your first time and experiencing that many people — you can’t get used to it.”

Audience members wearing animal masks dotted the audience. To the unfamiliar, it looked like a neon masquerade straight out of National Geographic. A pair of unicorn-masked men smoked cigarettes on the venue’s steps. Nearby, a man wearing a mouse-eared beanie and a neon sash made of glow sticks danced next to his friend in a full-body monkey costume.

Jared Glosser, a 19-year-old history junior, poured sweat in the monkey costume near the front of the stage. The monkey suit is a tradition between Glosser and eight friends; everyone takes a turn being the monkey at a concert. Beats Antique was Glosser’s first night.

“You can’t be the monkey for too long, or else it starts getting to you, but tonight is my night,” he said. “I can get away with any monkey business I want.”

The band fosters the eclectic experience.

During the show’s 20-minute encore, volunteer belly dancers wearing hippo, deer and mice masks inflated a 20-foot squid was inflated on stage.

“All hail the giant squid!” Satori yelled as he donned an oversized, fuzzy duck head.

He bought the head on vacation in Hawaii before the band formed, Satori said, and Beats Antique was the perfect opportunity to start using it. The band even started selling its own rubber horse masks at shows.

“We just like the bizarre, weird stuff sometimes,” Satori said. “We like to give them more than they thought they were going to get.”

***

After the show, Cappel sipped from one of his favorite percussion instruments — a plastic water bottle.

“Probably the most obscure sound is the squishing of a bottle as a snare,” he said, tightening his grip around the Publix water bottle he was drinking from. “It makes it real crackly.”

It is a common practice for the band. At their recording studio in California, Satori and Cappel, both classically trained musicians, search to fill the electronic portions of their tracks with sounds they can’t perform live.

“There’s pieces of junk around our studio that we just hit on,” Cappel said. “One song I played the radiator — an electric heater, I’ve played that. We’re looking at things that will add textures and build upon a certain groove or something with different sounds than are normally used.”

Their creative license was a luxury of professionalism. Satori has a degree in music performance and composition from the California Institute of the Arts. Cappel attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston for a degree in studio drumming.

Four albums after the band’s creation in 2007, Beats Antique has torn down the remaining boundaries between classical styles and modern, downtempo electronic music.

Afrobeat percussion compliments the flair of a Latin horn, and the folk sound of the Middle Eastern viola often makes an appearance alongside the traditional Western banjo.

“We’ve called it electro-acoustic music,” Satori said. “Within any genre we can do that.”

Synths, sub-bass and Cappel’s Tama Starclassic drum set produce a head-nodding underlying bass line that the drummer described as “big and thumpy but not too flabby.”

“What makes our band fun for me is we play what we want to play,” said Cappel.

“We go into the dubstep with some wobbles. But we don’t do it too much, just enough for flavor.”

Satori and Cappel write the band’s songs, then electronically record their friends playing the different instruments. Once a simple arrangement is made, the electronic recordings become a custom sample pack.

“We take everything, and we cut it all up, and we turn it into an actual song,” Cappel said. “Then we deconstruct the song to perform it live.”

***

Jakes’ Gainesville performance ended backstage, but it started at Hip Moves Fitness Studio.

She’s taught a sold-out 30-person belly-dancing workshop at each city the band has played at in Florida.

“Beats Antique is helping making it a dance form that is more widely accepted as a professional dance form,” she said. “I really hope that it helps belly dance get more in the mainstream.”

Before the show, she helped design the night’s music arrangement to coincide with her performance. Jakes wrote the performance’s introductory piece.

On stage, her relentless routine demands she manipulate every muscle she can to twirl, dip and gyrate. Some movements are fluid and flowing, while others are more rigid like a martial artist taking a combative stance.

Jakes began developing her unique technique at a ballet studio in Calgary, Canada at age 3. It wasn’t until 2000 she began studying belly dancing.

“I did a little dabbling here and there,” she said, “but I was a rebel.”

In school, Jakes practiced the style for as many as six hours, five days a week. She began touring with troupe Bellydance Superstars in 2005, and would go on to found Beats Antique in 2007.

She has incorporated hip-hop, tango and traditional Indian bharatanatyam dance into her belly dancing base style, Tribal Fusion.

“My own style involves a lot of yoga and pilates too,” she said. “The idea is to make stronger dancers.”

Jakes may be an experienced dancer, but the performance exhausted her. In addition to more than an hour of continuous dancing, she’s only had three minutes for each of her eight full-body costume changes during the 90-minute set.

“What’s happening backstage is actually crazier than what’s happening onstage,” she said. “I have so many ridiculous costumes.”

Jakes’ wardrobe is a product of her imagination. She designs her costumes, sources materials herself and then contracts designers to bring the creations to life.

During one song, she emerged as a mermaid with a pearl necklace and a bedazzled teal and gold tail. Another time, she whipped across stage in a red, white and black porcelain mask, trailed by a matching red silk veil. But one of her most bizarre costumes included a headdress of gold chains strung from 22-point deer antlers.

“I bought them on eBay,” she said about the antlers. “[The headdress designer] had to weld them to the helmet. You don’t even want to know what that thing is worth.”

But it was worth it to Jakes. The masks and gowns were all a part of entertaining the audience and having fun.

“Sometimes I feel like I get to be a little girl and just wear a bunch of cute outfits,” she said.

Her husband agreed.

“A lot of these people, that's what they’ll take home with them. Thats what they’ll remember: the crazy animal head or the squid,” he said. “People are catching on.”

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