If you go to shows in Portland, you’ve probably heard Boy Eats Drum Machine. What, do you all live in Portland? I DIDN’T THINK SO. The Oregon musician, known in real life as Jon Ragel, comes to shows armed with a turntable, saxophone, one drum and enough energy to light up a stadium. Ragel plays emotional sample-based tracks infused with his own live instrumentation and vocals. Whether you get a joyous upbeat song, a tragic love song or a jaunt into the experimental turntable territory, you can’t help but dance until you don’t have the energy to dance anymore. “How are all these people still dancing?” you’ll breathlessly ask.
Ragel has been playing as Boy Eats Drum Machine since 2001, but he didn’t discover his full sound until 2005 when he started incorporating the turntable into his music. Since then he’s released four albums, each a well-accomplished work on its own. 20 Beats, released in September 2010, sees Ragel taking a heavier, tighter and more experimental approach. On Hoop and Wire, released just half a year earlier, he focuses on more conventional song writing with live vocals and music to boot.
What’s constant throughout is how much fun he seems to have with Boy Eats Drum Machine. Onstage, Ragel is a sweaty, animalistic mad genius. Offstage he’s maybe the friendliest guy you’ll meet. In both worlds he seems to genuinely enjoy making music that both entertains and intrigues his audience. If he keeps this up, I don’t know how I’ll gather enough energy for another Boy Eats Drum Machine show (seriously! I need to work on my cardio).