What to do tonight: Conspirator at the Rex


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One of the distinguishing features of electronica music is how it refuses to be bottled up, often lending itself to mesmerizing riffs that circulate around you or float away in instrumental jams. The music — and the dancing — can pulsate on and on.

“But my dad wouldn’t think so,” said Chris Michetti, guitarist for the group Conspirator, playing tonight on the South Side. “My father is like, ‘End that song already! What the hell’s wrong with you? The Beatles only played three-minute songs. What happened?’”

What happened is evolution, the next new thing that the grown-ups just don’t understand.

Conspirator is a Philadelphia-based band started in 2004 by Aron Magner (keyboards) and Marc Brownstein (bass), who are also two of the four members of the Disco Biscuits, a band that has been playing “trance fusion” since forming at the University of Pennsylvania in 1995.

Six years into Conspirator, Mr. Magner and Mr. Brownstein brought in Mr. Michetti on guitar and KJ Sawka on drums. Earlier this year, Mr. Sawka was replaced by a young man who goes by the name of “Torch.” The resulting membership has been lauded by electronica fans who have dug and danced to their experimental sound in countless clubs and festivals across the country.

“When KJ started, the sound took on a more [electronic dance music]-based sound,” Mr. Michetti said. “It was more club style. Now, with the onset of Torch, we are still doing a lot of dancy stuff, but we’re bringing a lot of our improvisational roots back. We play more, we’re more of a jam band.”

Conspirator’s strength is in its live performances. The fans love it. A hypnotic 11-minute song here, a seven-minute favorite there, and suddenly it’s last call.

“The cool thing about this band, when we jam or improvise, we don’t just stop and put the guitar player out front playing a hot lick,” Mr. Michetti said. “The thing we like better is when all four of us are playing together, in sync, so one person isn’t necessarily shining. The band is shining. It’s really hard to do, to be honest. But it’s definitely the best. That’s when you know that you’ve had a good night.

“We feed off the crowd. Any musician would say that. The vibe in the air can cause dramatic changes. It’s a big deal. You can have a small crowd going nuts, and they’re into the music. It can’t help but affect you playing on the stage and what your next move is going to be. At that point, you just relax and let the music play and take that next step — which is just letting go.”

Even the songs they’ve been playing for nine years can take on a new life on any given night.

“Like any band, over time there’s evolution. The music changes,” Mr. Michetti said. “We do a lot of improv, changing the set-up every night. I don’t think we play the same show twice.

“Sometimes, you play something and we just look at each other and wonder what just happened? That song became a whole different beast that time.”

Coming from Philadelphia, it’s no surprise to learn that Conspirator has played Pittsburgh numerous times, developing a loyal fan base.

“Certain places are stronger than others by nature of how many times we’ve been there,” Mr. Michetti said. “They know us. So some places, we know it’s going to be a sold-out show, it’s going to be packed.

“Pittsburgh continues to grow. We used to play Mr. Smalls a lot, and now we’re at the Rex. I think it’s going to be the next level.”

They will be playing their level best with Escort tonight at 9 at the Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St.

Doors open at 8 p.m. and there is a $20 cover.


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