Metronome Diary 

I Am The World Trade Center

I have to stop nodding my head. At concerts, I mean. I'm tired of it. I remember back when I used to really dance at shows. Or shall I say, a particular show. It was Echo and the Bunnymen, 1989. I had only been to one other concert in my whole life, so I was relying heavily on my neighbors to model proper concert-going behavior. Somehow my friend Paul and I ended up in a wildly appreciative section of art school goths. When they put on their oversized white concert T-shirts, we put on our T-shirts. When they stood up on their seats, we carefully perched on ours as well.

And when they started dancing, Paul and I followed along as best we could. That night I missed most of the Bunnymen's onstage antics because I was too busy watching my neighbor for signs of a change in the dance routine. It was worth it: By the end of the night, I was a master of the Hug Yourself Morosely While Swaying, the Sad Chicken Two Step, and my personal favorite, the Wrist Dance.

The Wrist Dance was the best because it was the most emotive. To do it, you make an X by laying one wrist over the other. Now lift both arms to about six inches above eye level while extending your elbows so the wrists cross about a foot in front of your forehead. Got it? Now move. Damn. Feels good, doesn't it?

You bet it does. Unfortunately, the next concert I went to was Pink Floyd, where the hicks far outnumbered the goths, and I learned that it's better to just sit and watch the show and not try and make waves by standing on your seat and doing the Sad Chicken. From then on, I just nodded my head at shows.

A limited repertoire of concert moves is something that Dan Gellar can relate to. Gellar is the programmer behind I Am the World Trade Center, the dance music trio composed of Gellar, singer Amy Dykes, and Gellar's laptop. Gellar is probably best known from his work with indie rock band Kincaid and his job as co-owner of Kindercore Records.

But now he's starting afresh as a dance machine. Sort of. The new I Am the World Trade Center CD, Out of the Loop, has a lot in common with work by the Belle and Sebastian offshoot band Looper: It sounds like dance music lovingly braided and looped by hand, not computer.

"I didn't want the music to be mechanical," Gellar said via cell phone from the Indiana turnpike. "I wanted it to have that human quality to it."

And it does. Gellar and Dykes so seamlessly merge drum kit beats, synthesizer bleeps, and floaty lyrics that Out of the Loop feels like a natural extension of pop music. Songs like "Metro" and "September" borrow the best moves from the Stone Roses, De La Soul, and Fat Boy Slim, combining them all in a mishmash that will likely create a stampede for the dance floor when they play San Francisco on July 23 and 26.

Or maybe not. Bay Area audiences are notoriously prone to staring at the stage when they should be putting on their dancey pants. Gellar has faith, though, in the power of alcohol.

"People like to dance," he explains, laughing. "You just need to get them drunk. The drunker you get people, the more they're gonna dance and the more fun they're gonna have."

Because running a bar tab for the assembled masses would be prohibitively expensive, Gellar also helps try to loosen things up onstage by providing a visual get-down tutorial up onstage. Gellar says they've had surprisingly good luck getting indie rock crowds to shake a leg. Sometimes, he's learned, you just have to get a little bossy.

"We've gotten to the point now where we say, 'Get up and dance!'" Gellar explains. "We're trying really hard to not come across as pretentious. It's not like 'Oh, look at this amazing technical achievement we've done.' It's like, 'Look at this really fun music we've created, come have fun with us.'"

With Café du Nord being the crowded sweatbox that it is, I'm pinning my hopes on the July 26 show at Popscene. And maybe, given enough alcohol, the Wrist Dance might rise again.

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