On stage, Scott Kirkland is intensely physical: His body pulses and gyrates to the beats he assembles. He throws the hood of his sweatshirt over his face, druid-like, and flaps his hands above his head, ushering a roar from the crowd. When his mix swells toward crescendo, he punches the air at the precise moment that the lights blindingly flare. He raises a computer tablet, on which feel-good messages scroll. For half the show, he wears his earphones horizontally, so that the headband covers his eyes like a visor.
“WHY THE F*** DID IT TAKE US SO LONG TO GET TO COSTA RICA?” he shouts in his microphone, stirring a tsunami of cheers.
Kirkland is one-half of the electronica duo The Crystal Method, headliners of a rambunctious Saturday night concert at Club Vertigo in western San José. After 20 years of composing and playing electronica, Kirkland and his music partner Ken Jordan played their first concert in Costa Rica to a diverse and sizable crowd. After hours of DJs and openers, Jordan and Kirkland kicked off their performance around 1:30 a.m. and continued tirelessly until 4.
While Kirkland is the showman, riling up the crowd with his hyperactive antics, it is Jordan who made Costa Rica their destination: A smiley and paternal presence, Jordan is an active environmentalist and owns a house in the idyllic coastal town of Malpaís, on the Pacific coast. Jordan is familiar with Tico life, and his wife, Janine, is involved in environmental nonprofits. The band donated a percentage of their take from Saturday’s performance to a local initiative to pave the dusty roads on the Nicoya Peninsula.
“Next time,” Jordan joked before the show, “I’m taking [Kirkland] to the beach.”
The Crystal Method has a long and storied history, starting in a crummy recording studio beneath a Los Angeles overpass and culminating in their platinum album, “Vegas,” in 1997. Their songs have popped up everywhere — in video games, in movies, as the opening theme to the TV series “Bones.” They sample a range of audio segments, from Beatles songs to a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama. Their many music videos are fast-paced and hallucinatory. As a nod to their up-tempo rhythms, shoemaker Nike commissioned “Drive,” a special 45-minute soundtrack for runners.
Their two-city tour of Latin America is a triumphant occasion for both men: Kirkland recently underwent brain-surgery to remove a benign cyst, forcing The Crystal Method to pause their breakneck creative schedule. Saturday’s Vertigo show was a chance to visit Jordan’s second home, break ice in San José, and drum up excitement for their top-secret new album — which is approaching completion, give or take some song titles.
The concert itself was an experiment in sensory overload — deafening bass, dizzying strobes, dancers spinning glow-in-the-dark hula-hoops, and one sinewy busker with a top hat, laser-fingers, and a giant balloon. The Crystal Method’s modus operandi is to mash up beats, recorded samples, and sometimes entire songs. (When their remix of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” played, one fan shouted: “That’s better than the original.”) The crowd continued to hop, grind and fist-pump until the final blowout, not long before dawn.
Perhaps the happiest guests were Alejandro Arrione and Rebeca Carvajal, who won free tickets from The Tico Times’ online contest. The ecstatic twenty-somethings (Rebeca’s celebrating her birthday next week) and two friends received backstage access, a pair of autographed CDs, and a chance to meet Kirkland and Jordan during a pre-concert meet-and-greet.
“I’m so happy,” said Esteban García, one of the winner’s friends, clutching his album and beaming. “This is once in a lifetime, you know?”