It looks like everyone brought their laptops (five) to class and now it was time to see if they had been paying attention or simply paying for the equipment. Aside from a rather impressive looking drum set there was little on stage that one would not see normally at such an event. Wires running everywhere busy bodies running around to set up their different mixing boards (which I hope they are familiar with). They have apparently also brought a sheet, no excuse me, a trip screen from home as well. Without a doubt the visualizations are automatically produced through whichever software they are currently using (my guess is Ableton) (I later found out that the visuals, though produced through the software, where being manually controlled. One laptop down, four to go.)
1st Act: There is not much to be said of trip-hop music that is not already in the title. It is repetitive but catchy. However, this particular DJ was completely uninvolved which translated to his audience with ease. As I sat and watched the audience talk amongst themselves while the DJ stood their doing next to nothing I thought about what I was even doing there. In between poor (seemingly default) horn samples and dead air between mixes of modern rap and classic R&B I found myself quickly summing up this performance as a less than average opening act, though as with everyone, there is room for potential. He simply seemed not to care as beats where skipped and drops passed over in favor of library browsing. It was not until the DJ was joined by a live bassist that it became remotely bearable, and even then the bass lines were simple and without inspiration. There were no fills, no solos, simply the same beat grinding away laboriously at what little patience I had left. As quickly as he had come the bassist was gone and I was once again left with the tracks of others being neglected by the inattentive DJ. As I looked out over the hapless crowd still milling about seemingly without purpose I raised the idea to a friend of mine to which he responded, “The crowd is just a bunch of DJ wooks waiting for a drop.” The drop never came.
Just as I began to give up all hope and leave the bar a (quite literally) shining beacon of entertainment presented itself to me. Looking to my left I was delighted to finally see someone dancing! Not only was someone dancing, but it was an incredibly old (in comparison to the crowd, he was probably in his fifty’s or sixty’s) man. In his shoe slippers and socks, he began to take charge as if he had always been the King of the Scene. Though admittedly I would hardly call it dancing as much as bouncing around manically, I would be hard pressed to say his pristine Docker Khaki’s and tucked in plaid collar shirt didn’t make it look damn good. The leather belt was a nice touch as well. As the song dies down so do the movements of the now crip walking elder. With the end of the song comes the end of my great humor and it is back to basics I thought at the return of the uninspired hip hop tracks beat against my head once again. The only reprieve was when the DJ missed a mix or a a beat and there was a brief moment of wonderful silence as everyone looked at each other as if there was something expected of them. Boring, and oh wow, that was just the first act. This next act may cause me to abandon all hope in this endeavor as my personal arch enemy begins to play through the speakers…Brostep.
2nd Act: And so here I sat presented with what I viewed as the death of a scene I was enchanted with. This was the reason the most undesirable people slither up to you dripping all over themselves asking if you have “ever heard of dubstep”. This may seem very minor to the average person, but to me it is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to me at a concert. As the incessant vocals of the Brostep began drilling slowly into my skull I looked around to notice the crowd growing thicker and more tan. They had heard it and the Bro’s have arrived. Imagine if you would the worst cover of a brilliant song you have ever heard. You probably already have one in mind. Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” being redone and thoroughly slaughtered by Cheryl Crow perhaps? There are plenty, however what I am now seeing and hearing assures me that my first impressions thus far have been true: this is a bush league cake walk. Just as I began to lose interest in amateur hour the aforementioned crip walking bald man took to one of the laptops. As I instantly rose for a better look I came to learn he was controlling the visuals on the she–trip screen. We have come a long way from the black and white screens of his day I thought as I eyed the still unoccupied drum set. I wanted to see him play but physical illness was more likely to arrive before he did. As the DJ continued on through easily recognizable dubstep tracks as well as some of the more modern pop songs we wish were less recognizable he would pause between songs and await an applause from his crowd, rarely getting any. I raised my issue with this to another friend of mine and our discussion has lead me to believe that the DJ had apparently failed to get the memo that a live DJ set is supposed to consist of a live, constantly playing and frequently mixed array of their (preferably original) material. A DJ will get praise on his individual tracks from his fans, but there is a prerequisite for that to happen: you must have fans. Tonight, there were very few that had even heard of a single act and this DJ should have been doing everything possible to reach out to the new crowd and instead was floundering at best. Once fans are gained then you will not have to ask for applause, it will be freely given. My smile at that idea was quickly washed away as the ultimate display of what I despise about Brostep began to bang through the speakers. It was “Cracks” by Flux Pavillion and it was not being mixed but instead put to a beat grid and simply skipped a few times every now and then. I sat and listened as it was basically the original song and then rose to finally walk out. That drummer was far off it would seem and I may never make it…and after so much torment that was unacceptable. I had to maintain.
3rd Act: Standing on the deck of the Spotlight Tavern reeling from the atrocities I had witnessed over the course of the night is when I first noticed it. There was a silence coming from inside (aside from the still nauseating slick of the grease as the tannest of tan carried on mindless incoherent conversations) and the repetitive assaults upon the glass had stopped. I decided to leave my safe haven (the farthest corner of the deck I could find) and venture, though warily, to the door and peer inside. The Brostep was gone. Suddenly a rush of excitement came over me as I had made it through the worst and now there was nothing which lay between myself and what I had come to see. With a loud crack throughout the bar each person became a blur and I pulled the corner of my mouth into a small grin. Another crack of the snare sent my grin into a full blown smile as I burst the door aside and headed for the stage at full pace. Boom Boom Boom. A feal kick drum. I was in heaven finally and just hearing the man tune up I saw others more interested in dancing and moving to the front of the stage. I knew this of course because the senseless hum that had persisted all night ceased…the crowd themselves was still a blur of my excitment. It was time for the main act to begin and I was finally going to see the fantastical drumming I had been forewarned about, and I was right. Or was I.
When the music started I realized that I had actually come to a show after all and that it simply lay dormant around me. Though the players were all askew, the spirit of the game was there and it was restless. A light ambient intro from a talented DJ and a gentle organic cymbal splash has rather rapidly become one of my preferred starts to a live-tronica show and more often than not I was not disappointed as it came standard. This was no different and before you know it the music has begun and every person there is feeling it at an equal level, at the same pace, despite anything else they had been doing prior in the evening. Not minutes ago I stood swaying with the breeze of the deck considering if the height of it was sufficient for tying a rope around my neck and jumping off and now I found myself front and center, replacing the prior slipper shoe wearing party starter. The drumming was as impressive as the set and the DJ knew what he was doing; it did not take long for the natural instincts of those around me to begin dancing if they were not before. That was the great brilliance in the natural drum kit: it brings out the tribal instinctive urge to move your body without you even realizing it and I was no different. However, the majesty of the moment was slowly tarnished by my creeping awareness of a lack of variety in the playing. One by one I noticed as those that were the most in tune with the music began slowing down and losing interest while those that had joined in at the beginning of the set had all but dispersed entirely. It suddenly hit me that the drummer I had waited so long and arduously to see was all out of tricks and there was still much to come. I slowly moved from the front leaving the position to the truly dedicated and slinked off to the back to watch the scene as a whole as I had been prior to my excitement. In an instant I observed exactly what I had feared from the beginning: this was stagnant and unoriginal. My joy for seeing an actual instrument played had caused me to overlook the fact that the drummer himself was playing the same beats I found impressive from most every other drummer I have seen in such a format. It was not him that impressed me, but the beats themselves. I had been fooled and as I looked at the sticky mass of people before me (sadly noting that the only thing larger than their numbers was their gut wrenching odor) and felt upset for them. You see they too had been fooled and yet there they stood, banging away as if they themselves were the “totally awesome” drummer they were now watching. I was getting dizzy again; it was finally time to leave.