This past friday consisted of a lot of firsts for me.

It was the first time I had ever been to a true DIY show, and it was definitely the first time I had ever heard, or seen a modular synthesis being used live in person. Given both of those things were pretty foreign concepts to me, I honestly had no real idea what to expect when going to this show. The venue, PhilaMOCA, wound up blending so well into the background that I actually walked past it quite a few times before managing to find the entrance. Once inside however, what I was greeted with was rather impressive. My initial thought on DIY venues were that they would be nothing but a cramped, poorly lit room with cheap equipment and zero lighting, but the interior of PhilaMOCA was nicely laid out. It consisted of two wide floors, and the walls were decked out with displays of local art and photographs. I casually grab my spot up towards the front rows and sit down.

Cool Maritime

By the time 8:30 PM rolls around, a young man with a blue hoodie and jeans takes the stage. He’s quiet, and gives a small wave towards the audience as he begins his performance. This is cool maritime, and while he composes his dreamy, beach inspired synth tunes I can’t help but gaze into the video that is running in the background, which is a never ending loop of sand, water, and other ocean themed snippets. Around me, the crowd is silent, either nodding along, or staring intently into the depths of the digital water. This effect is soothing, and his set ends on a calm note as the footage eventually runs out.

Maria Usbeck

After Cool Maritime makes his silent exit, Maria Usbeck steps up on stage. Her music, while not including any background videos, was an endearing follow up to Maritime. Her graceful, Ecuadorian infused performance had the audience dancing and laughing along as she cracked jokes between songs, and she showcased her vocal talents with tracks such as “Amparo” and “Moai Y Yo,” both if which included interesting combinations percussion shakers and nature field recordings done by Usbeck herself.

Kaitlyn Aurela Smith

It’s 10:00 PM by the time Kaitlyn appears, and by now the crowd has reached capacity. I squeeze by way apologetically towards the front, camera in hand. Just as I reach my spot the lights go dim, and there’s suddenly an explosion of color that goes off on the screen. Kaitlyn wastes no time going into her first song, and I watch as her hands expertly work their way across her Bucha 100 synthesizer. This thing is massive, with wires sticking out in every which direction, but the sounds produced from this chaos is like nothing ever heard before. Her songs fill the whole room with beautiful, ambient sound marked by her signature synth vocals. The combination of this, plus the stunning visuals made for a euphoric experience for each person there that night, and despite me understanding so little about it, I was glad I went.

Kaitlyn Aurela Smith