Nation of Language, Reggie Watts - The Crocodile - 05.19.23 - Photos by Emmett Orgass

There isn’t much I can say about Reggie Watts that hasn’t already been said. You might know him as the comedian/beatboxer who rose to fame in the mid-2000s with features on Comedy Central and CollegeHumor, or as the band leader for the Late Late Show with James Corden, or, if you were in Seattle nearly twenty years ago, as the frontman to the local band Maktub. He’s about as versatile a musician as can be, reinforced by the fact that he improvises each and every one of his shows. Each song wavers between comedy, DJ set, lecture, and whimsy. At about the midpoint of his show, he stopped the track, pulled a flashlight out of his pocket, and used it to point out all of the Crocodile’s incredible sound and lighting specifics. In those forty-five seconds, I learned more about stage design than I had ever known before.

This show, however, was special. It was a homecoming. Before making a name for himself in New York with bits on Comedy Central, Reggie Watts lived in Seattle for eight years. Between 1996 and 2004 Reggie resided in the city, first coming here from his childhood home in Montana to attend the Art Institute of Seattle, before transferring to the Cornish College of the Arts. Seattle has his heart, as he lays out in a rap over his own self-beatboxed beat: “Guys I’m super thankful of everything you’ve provided me as a city, it’s always in my DNA, and I appreciate coming back every time, I’m very thankful for Nation of Language for including me, it’s a nice feeling to be accepted by people who are extraordinary, everybody here, everybody here, just enjoy your lives!” Reggie Watts plays live sporadically, next playing on June 22nd in Denver, CO, with Eric Andre, and the Flaming Lips.

“Is this what the 80s felt like?”, I murmur to myself. Frontman Ian Devaney has the crowd on fire with his band’s synth-wave, indie-tronic, dance groove anthems. Honestly, I’ve never seen someone dance like him. He snaps back and forth between beats, his legs moving like jelly, he’s as close as it gets to a rubber band. Or maybe they’re all a rubber band (sorry).
Nation of Language could be considered post-punk. Or synth-pop. Or indie-disco. Or even electro-rock. If anything, they’re the hyphen in between genres, always blending sounds, always moving, forever serving as a connection, to music, to dance, to experience, to what have you. To me, it sounds as if Joy Division and David Bowie formed a band in 2016, in Brooklyn, and dove deep into the electronic age. Nation of Language sounds like the soundtrack to the modern-day film camera revival, the songs that play over your parents’ radio, or the ambient noise you’d hear onboard interplanetary space travel. Simultaneously their music is nostalgic, and fully present in the current moment.
And look, I wasn’t born in the 80s. And, admittedly, 80s music isn’t my forte. But I’ve heard about the disco fever and the synthesizer madness. And hey, when the Crocodile’s disco ball flickered on during Nation of Language’s finale, you could taste the crowd’s electricity in the air. I couldn’t spot a single soul standing still. Nation of Language brought us all together.

--Review by Emmett Orgass