This LA Priest article was written by Alexander Smail, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse. Header image by Simone Chiappinelli.
For one moment during his set, Sam Dust takes a sample of the audience’s cheers, before playing it back as a loop, pointing at a wooden case and manically declaring “I’ve got you guys in this box now”. It’s a surreal moment, but then Dust is a pretty surreal guy. Known for heading nu-rave outfit Late Of The Pier, he now indulges in hypnagogic 70s-tinged electronica under the LA Priest moniker.
Donning a satin shirt and blue cotton bottoms, he looks pretty unassuming as he emerges onto the stage. In fact, everything about Dust is understated, from his bedroom getup to his blithe attitude. Even the stage design is bracingly simple. Performing in front of nothing but a lighting rig that could only be homemade, Dust keeps the spectacle to a minimum during the night. Flashes of light dazzle every so often, but the set is refreshingly modest in intention and execution.
Declaring that he’s never played the song live before, he jumps into a bouncy rendition of ‘Occasion’. Focused, yet a little hesitant, he reminds the audience that the song will likely sound abysmal. Either he’s messing around, or not giving himself enough credit, because he sounds even better live than on record. ‘Night Train’ is a highlight on his album Inji and it, too, plays better live. It makes sense that the song would translate well in front of a crowd: it’s the most commercial track on the record, and Dust gives it enough extra kick to sound fresh.
Where many bands’ engagement with their crowd feels like forced posturing, Dust really does see his fans as peers. With only a small step separating them, he often jumps down to engage with the crowd, chatting and laughing in between tracks. When one enthusiastic supporter admires the reverb of the vocals, Dust assures him that he’ll let him play around with it later. And he does. One fan even blows steam from his vaporiser onto the stage to create the illusion of smoke. The rapport between the crowd and performer is akin to watching a friend’s band play.
For an extended interlude, Dust indulges in the electronic dance music which defined Late Of The Pier, and which simmers beneath the surface on Inji. Taking a pretty drastic departure from the serene synthpop, Dust describes the foray as “like a crappy DJ set”. He needn’t be so hard on himself. It would be an unexpected – and unwelcome – shift for any other artist, but seems like a natural digression in Dust’s adept hands. He does, by his own admission, get carried away but we’re more than happy to watch him disappear down the rabbit hole.
Forgoing an encore, Dust instead plays one of his loops and casually sinks into the crowd. It seems almost moot to end on such a personal note, as the whole set was nothing more than an affable back-and-forth. Regardless, any preconceptions of electronic music being cold and sterile melt away in face of Dust’s hypnotising charisma. Beneath the – admittedly captivating – coarseness, there is a real elegance to Sam Dust. He may appear rough around the edges, but LA Priest knows what he’s doing.