One of the best parts about Reed Juenger's job -- playing multiple instruments with the Seattle-based group Beat Connection -- is that it keeps him busy when he's on stage.
Otherwise, he might see the faces of the fans enjoying his music and get totally distracted.
"It's incredibly surreal," he said this afternoon from his humble hotel room a few miles outside of Pittsburgh. "When we are on stage, we luckily have enough things that we have to keep doing that we can ignore how dumbfounding the whole experience is.
"It's crazy to know that people are actually listening. We can see some of it on the Internet, but it's so awesome to look out and see it in front of us."
Tonight, you and your friends can be part of the crowd in front of Beat Connection at Brillobox on Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville.
Beat Connection started a few years ago as Mr. Juenger and his friend, Jordan Koplowitz.
"Jordan and I just started messing around with music as an electronic duo," Mr. Juenger said. "It was fun and we made some good music, but it's really very tough to have a compelling stage presence with just us. And we struggled with that for a while. We always knew that we wanted to add other musicians to jump our live performance."
That meant adding vocalist Tom Eddy and Jarred Katz on drums.
Together, the four of them are touring the country, spreading the sound of their electronic pop music.
Mr. Koplowitz plays keyboards and guitar. And Mr. Juenger is pounding away at all sorts of things that don't even seem like real words -- mpcs, midi keyboards, sp-404s, dd-5s, torq, logic, kaoss pads, microkorgs, and vocal effects. He even presses buttons that control lights.
"I look like a keyboardist, but I'm playing three separate instruments," he said. "When we first started, we really didn't know how to perform our music live. That's been a learning process. Playing multiple instruments started out as a necessity, and then it became just like performing any instrument -- it was always a fun challenge to see how much of the electronics I could hold down."
They see themselves of trailblazers, of sorts, but they're quick to acknowledge the influence of other artists from various music styles. Especially with Mr. Katz, whose drum studies at the University of Washington reflect a distinct Latin flavor.
"He brings us a lot of cool rhythms," Mr. Juenger said. "We definitely have a lot of different elements. But we're not trying to emulate anyone. We try new things, but we're also very aware of trends on both the small level and the large level. All of us listen to a ton of different genres, and we toy with incorporating elements into our music."
Their songwriting, he said, is "a very collaborative process,"
"It starts out instrumental, and then we work to arrange that into a song," he said. "Then Jarred will add drums and all four of us sit down and work on lyrics.
"Even though [lyrics are] the last stage, it's during that phase when the song really takes shape. We're definitely making it up as we go along, and each song is different. Some songs remain completely intact from beginning to end, and then there are others that just disappear as all four of us work on it."
Beat Connection has toured the country opening for other acts, but this is the group's first time out as a headliner.
"The other bands were great to us and they had great audiences and we were getting our music out to a lot of people," Mr. Juenger said. "But sometimes you felt like they were thinking, 'OK, get this over with. We're here to see the other band.' Now we have an audience there for our music."
The experience has been both exhilarating and exhausting.
"We're excited to get working on our next record. We've been talking about it a lot in he car," Mr. Juenger said. "We're three and a half weeks into the tour, so some of the people are ready to go home and relax. But then we remember the big picture and realize that this is an experience that very few people have, and it's easy to stay happy and excited about this."
This is their first visit to Pittsburgh, and they are being joined by White Arrows and Teen Daze.
"White Arrows, their music has more rock and psychedelic elements than ours," Mr. Juenger said. "It's different but relatable. Same with Teen Daze. I like them both, and I feel like we're really fortunate. They're great guys."
The show starts at 9 p.m. and there's a $10 cover.
Beat Connection: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc0Wdqg-gns
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Picture (top, clockwise): Tom Eddy, Reed Juenger, Jordan Koplowitz and Jarred Katzneigh_city - music
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe: http://press.post-gazette.com/