Odesza performs at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, September 30, 2023. | Credit: Carl Perry
Odesza performs at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, September 30, 2023. | Credit: Carl Perry

An Odesza show might just be the ultimate example of a “you had to be there” event. I had, admittedly, little-to-no familiarity with the electronic duo from Bellingham, Washington, before seeing them at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, September 30. Concertgoers were elated, I didn’t get the hype. But I soon realized that to truly “get” Odesza, one needs to see Odesza. And to see Odesza is to undeniably experience them. 

Odesza diehards in isohedron-emblazoned apparel, the band’s signature 20-sided geometric logo, made their way to their seats during DJ sets from both QRTR & OLAN and TOKiMONSTA, though they wouldn’t be using said seats very much once the night’s livelier acts began. The evening’s penultimate artist, Bob Moses, another electronic duo, traded in CDJs for instruments and treated the crowd to a live set with hits like “Inner Light” and “Tearing Me Up.” Finally, Odesza was next. The crowd grew restless with excitement as the lights fell. 

The main event commenced with “This Version of You,” the opening track from Odesza’s most recent album, 2022’s The Last Goodbye. The ethereal, spoken-word piece set the precedent for the evening’s immaculate pairing of sight and sound: the stage design, though simple, included two hexagonal platforms complete with twisting staircases, all backed by an enormous LED screen. And if there was something on stage, you best believe it lit up in sync with the rhythms to come. 

The platforms and staircases themselves were covered in LED panels, showcasing ever-changing graphics that corresponded with the aforementioned LED backdrop seamlessly. Lights extinguished on the actorless stage as the introductory track crescendoed to conclusion: the crowd went wild as the entire scene before them burst into radiant color, with Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, Odesza, standing upon respective platforms.

What followed was a 90-minute festival for the senses. 

Odesza performs at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, September 30, 2023. | Credit: Carl Perry

As cinematic as it was theatrical as it was musical, Mills and Knight, former schoolmates at Bellingham’s Western Washington University, conducted a set of their greatest hits via synthesizers and samplers atop their illuminated towers. Deftly navigating between ambient interludes and dynamic hits (such as the confetti-canon activating “Love Letter”/”Something About You” medley in the show’s first half), the performers/producers traversed a variety of EDM (electronic dance music) subgenres, from house to dubstep (even a foray into the extreme-tempoed drum and bass), splashing each with their signature melodic style. Frequently accompanied by a drumline, trumpeter, and trombonist (the percussion enhancing the evening’s rhythmic portions while the brass players aided the melodies) the duo also brought out several guest vocalists to perform original parts live, including Izzy Bizu, Jack Froggatt, and Naomi Wild. In her final moments on stage, Wild shared that she “went to school in Santa Barbara,” offering a “Go Gauchos” before exiting.

Mills and Knight themselves, with all the kinetic energy and moves of aerobic fitness instructors, asked little of the crowd (only one or two “we want to see you go fucking crazy on this one, Santa Barbara”s) but received an outpouring in return. Truly, the enthusiasm of the crowd struck me as one of the most compelling characteristics of the show. That and the sometimes mind-boggling graphic displays that covered the stages many screens. Visuals ranged from medieval to floral to horrific (particularly during “Keep Moving” from Odesza adjacent side-project Bronson). And though the aesthetic directions didn’t always make obvious sense, I assumed they must have some significance in the Odeszian mythos. 

The night’s sonically dynamic, visually captivating set concluded with an encore featuring The Last Goodbye’s title track. Odesza followers were satiated and newcomers, myself included, were able to finally comprehend the duo’s iceberg-like appeal. Words can hardly do the experience justice, but one thing is unmistakably clear: an Odesza concert is unparalleled, maximalist entertainment.


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