James (phasemaster) wrote,

How the uhnts found its way onto every playlist

I don't write much anymore. Be it an aversion to the old whiny blogging that I used to do on here or a simple lack of inspiration, I just don't feel a need to post here.

But once in a while, an event comes along that is so transcendent that it requires description. This event occurred on Sunday night.

It was a little after 8 PM on the last day of Lollapalooza 2011 in Chicago, and I was standing near the Bud Light stage waiting for deadmau5 to perform. It had rained earlier that day, but the mud I was standing in seemed a worthwhile sacrifice for being in a good spot to witness the mau5's brand new stage show.

It soon became clear, however, that the gods were not finished that day. I looked up and noticed that the sky was turning an ominous purplish-gray above the skyscrapers that sat beyond the main stage. Within minutes, the darkness had streaked toward the stage, fueling the anticipation of what was sure to be an incredible performance. That anticipation turned to a feverish pitch as the rain began to fall, and the crowd greeted the raindrops with a frenzied yell.

From Lollapalooza 2011

Around 8:20 PM, ten minutes before deadmau5 was scheduled to begin his performance, the unmistakeable drone of electro synthesizers shrieked through the air to meet the rain, which had intensified. Upon hearing this, the crowd roared in delight and disbelief. There was a feeling in the air that something magical was happening.

As deadmau5 dropped his first killer beats, what was already intense rain turned into a full-fledged downpour, which refracted a massive contingent of lights to create an unforgettable glow. I had never experienced such a feeling of having my senses overwhelmed, and I doubt many in the crowd had either.

As somewhere between 20 and 80 thousand souls screamed upon being gripped by a glowing fury of the elements, lights, and sound; I thought of my camera. It had been showing signs of death--strange artifacts in photos and videos--and was nearing the end of its useful digital lifetime. What better end for it than a chance at capturing some precious video of this unbelievable moment?

So I fished it out of my already soaking wet pocket, and recorded what seemed like a minute of video. When I went to turn the camera off before putting it away, the lens did not retract. The camera was dead...but had I gotten any video? I would not know for several more hours.

What followed from that point forward was the best musical performance I have ever witnessed. Not only did the mau5 find a perfect balance between trance, electro, techno, dubstep, and yes, humor; he coordinated it all perfectly with the extra set of cubes that slowly climbed and fell to meet the stage as the set went on. Although a few glitches were apparent--some stuck pixels on the main mau5 cube, the fact that the auxiliary cubes remained off sometimes--the presence of the extra light-bestowing objects in addition to the enhanced backlighting and heavy contingent of traditional lights still resulted in a gluttonous feast for the eyes.

From Lollapalooza 2011

What's more, as the mau5 mixed out of "Raise Your Weapon" and the eerie din of "SOFI Needs a Ladder" filled the air; Sofi entered the stage and delivered a perfect rendition of the track's vocals.

By this time the rain had long since subsided, and what remained was the delight of deliciously crisp sound system and a crowd that was still in disbelief. I for one was completely overcome by just how hard the mau5's mix of "Professional Griefers" overlaid with Daft Punk vocals rocked me and threatened to pleasantly explode my head. By the time deadmau5 closed the set with "Ghosts 'n Stuff", the crowd was so rapturously entangled in the music that the Joel could have gotten us to do anything.

Although the crowd was quite disappointed that deadmau5 only showed his love to the crowd before parting the stage and did not return for an encore (it later became apparent that festival regulations prevented deadmau5 from performing until 10PM given his early start); this could do little to diminish a defining moment not only for Joel's career, but for dance music as an art form.

I think this was part of the reason I was so willing to sacrifice my camera. Here was a 30 year old nerd who just a few years ago had lived in his parents' basement in Toronto, making tunes on his computer. But as his productions and remixes gained popularity, Joel began to redefine dance music as we know it. He openly mocked the traditional format of a DJ mixing records, and instead challenged this well-established perception of dance music performances as little more than pre-made songs with short transitions of matched beats. To be sure, artists like Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers had blazed a trail in a very similar space (the former of which deadmau5 paid great homage to on Sunday night), but they had failed to achieve the same sort of mass appeal that was now within reach for deadmau5.

And so here Joel was, on the main stage in the last timeslot on the last day of Lollapalooza--something unheard of for electronic musicians. He had performed around the world and DJ'ed as a fixture at the MTV Video Music Awards, but how could he bridge the gap to the curious in the crowd--those who had come to see Eminem and Muse and many other acts even less like electronic music? I think he figured it out at about 8:20, when he saw the rain coming down, lit up the mau5 cube, and knocked it out of the fucking park.

Oh, were you still wondering if my camera got any footage before it died. Here is your short, but very sweet, answer :)

Tags: deadmau5, electro, joel zimmerman, lollapalooza 2011
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