Category Archives: Show/Venue Reviews
Brooklyn continues to hold onto it’s reputation as the host to some of the most distinguished electronic events in the US. That accolade was emphasized again deep in the warehouse district of the New York Burroughs on Saturday night. FIXED NYC teamed up with Verboten to put on yet another stellar event this past weekend at Brooklyn SRB with sets from Tensnake, Flight Facilities, Light Year, and founders Dave and JDH. The outside streets were silent and none the wiser, but behind those walls an ongoing display of organized chaos raged on through the Easter sunrise.
Openers Dave and JDH of FIXED are always solid candidates for commencing a night. The crowd never seems bored and the tracks are seldom tasteless. After reaching close to a two hour set, they gave the decks up to Australian electro-indie duo Flight Facilities, who are most recognized for their exclusively vinyl DJ sets and the frequently circulated track “Crave You(ft. Giselle Rosselli)“. Last night was the culmination to their North American tour. The set contained a lot of the Nu-disco chart hits we hear in their mixes. The track selection was a bit stale and not exactly refined but they kept the night going just the same. Whispers of a rumored appearance from Jess Higgs circulated the dance floor and came to be true when she performed live vocals for the hit “Crave You”, and the award winning “Foreign Language”. This was the highlight of their set. Live vocals over DJ sets are a risky move; depending on the audio quality of the venue and the mixing of the DJ, it can often sound tacky and bittersweet at times. However her voice was crystal clear and executed beautifully despite not having a state of the art sound system, much of which probably had to do with the chemistry they displayed on stage.
T&A gives this Flight Facilities performance a 5/10
Tensnake was the real star of the night. By the time he took the stage the main dance floor was filled. Known for his live aptitude and unanimously respected productions, Saturday night fell nothing short. His music is an equal fusion of funky disco melodies and perfectly crafted club house. With the overdue break into the BBC Essential Mix it was clear the Disco Don was digging deep into his house tastes with instant success in mastering the forte. The way his live show sounds really seems to cater best to what he’s trying to accomplish musically. Every single note is accentuated. His particular skill with multiple MIDI triggers and mixers transition him through disco samples and house beats creating seamless mash-ups.
The set immediately ignited into an explosion of dance beats. Tensnake changed the pace of the night from a pop-soaked frenzy to esoteric intensity. Everyone in attendance was coerced into a mutual fervency by the aggressive bass lines and stabbing synths. Eclectic key changes and initial lack of vocal sampling cloaked the audience into an electrical abyss. Most house music doesn’t leave room for interpretation but this was truly of a different caliber. There was mystery involved. The sequential synthesizer riffs were released in a way that almost gave you the impression he was throwing them at the crowd. Toward the middle of the set he steered into a deeper ambience but didn’t linger for a long. Following a few breezy segments of admittedly needed breathers, he returned to the percussive bass-driven house he has adapted so well in his recent career. Some of the tracks featured in his mix on Saturday were his hit “Coma Cat” and remix of Radiohead’s “Everything in it’s Place”. He also played “Mainline” which serves as a pure, unadulterated model of colorful 90’s Pop-funk.
T&A gives this performance a 7/10.
The venue itself was more than satisfactory. Very spacious with a general admission balcony and upper platform, there was plenty of dancing room. Two fairly sized bars with great beer selection were located on each side of the club. The sound quality wasn’t superb but by no means was it gritty or unpleasant. This shines a light on the production quality of Tensnake’s live show, his performance seemed much crisper than the others. It’s a solemn feeling when an act disappoints you but this artist is a certified virtuoso in his element. Even among his peers, Tensnake is perceived as one of the most commended artists in the industry. One could argue that solo electronic acts are devoid of the organic feel you get with a live band, but this is not a run of the mill DJ act. There is life to it. He’s also announced with the release of the Essential Mix that he is working on a full debut album, set to drop later this year, so keep an ear out for that.
Once again DFA Records has found itself in the streets of Hollywood. Pat Mahoney, co-founder and drummer of LCD Soundsystem, and The Juan MacLean performed at Dim Mak Studios last night with support from Urulu, Dirty Dave, and club resident Bones.
For those not familiar, DFA Records is a Brooklyn based label co-founded by LCD frontman James Murphy, and is known for signing some of the most elite underground indie and disco artists today. John MacLean, the brains of former live band gone solo act The Juan MacLean, has earned a great deal of respect among fellow DJ’s, becoming one of the most acclaimed names in vinyl spinners. Aside from an unmistakable niche on the turntables, his role as a producer may even supersede that. Colleague and friend Nancy Whang collaborated with John on the hit “Happy House“, which had a large effect on his chart presence at the time. His single “Feels So Good” (a serious heater) remains a frequently circulated classic across the globe, and one of our Top 20 originals in the 2000-2010 decade. In addition to the entries in his discography, he is responsible for producing a substantial amount of tracks for fellow artists on the label. Truly his own brand of DJ, his taste for vintage funk and disco and energetic live mixing are key factors in making him one of the most entertaining electronic acts one can see in a live setting.
The attendance at Dim Mak was particularly small for an ages 18+ electronic show, which was interesting when considering the turn out for past DFA oriented events in the area (however it was a little depressing when thinking of how well the TRAP shows out here do). Fortunately this didn’t affect our headliner’s performance any and they proceeded very accordingly with unexpected intimacy. Dirty Dave surprisingly played a fairly decent set and completed his task as an opener with more grace than most. He switched over to The Juan MacLean around 11pm, who opened up with Penguin Prison’s Multi-Millionaire (Pete Herbert Club Mix), immediately setting the tone for what’s to come.
What followed was pleasantly intense. Right after the introductory segue I could tell something different was going to happen. The set’s atmosphere was rich in deep/tech house, descending into perpetual notes of disco grooves as a base. A lot of the tracks featured a strong focus on female vocals, something trademarked in his own original productions and past DJ sets. Although it was the most house music I have seen either him or Pat Mahoney play, especially with the tasteful disco both perform adamantly and which the record label is predominately founded upon, Juan played all the right sounds and with all the right class a DFA superstar would.
I would attribute the content of the set to the location; being in Hollywood and playing in Steve Aoki’s spot, I can see where the house would be appropriate. Contrary to any assumption that MacLean is just another mass produced stage puppet for taking this change in direction live, the track selection was choice. If he was in fact trying to adapt to the setting, far away from his underground empire of New York, he only did so in a small amount. This was no dime-a-dozen Los Angeles house gig. The tracks had a minuscule line between disco and club music genres and always held a hometown funk rhythm to fluently guide them. Although Juan strayed from a vintage 70’s selection and veered into more extrinsic beats, it was still executed in classic form. We’re suckers for a properly filtered blend of disco mixed with early millennia club-house, and when you pit those characteristics with someone with as much experience on the decks as The Juan, the payoff is explosive.
Indeed the show was different from anything I’ve heard either of the two do in the past, but at the same time it wasn’t, and this is because of the level of expertise they possess. They could spin anything and their signatures will still radiate through the speakers. All that Pat and MacLean did last night was took their Brooklyn style confidence and applied it to old school house grooves and beat patterns, and that accents LA. The quality that puts these veterans in a different class is that they treat the turntables as a true instrument and tool for bringing lost and forgotten tracks back on the public’s radar. DFA Records is just the dose of class the streets of Hollywood need to get these kids free from the restraints of the overplayed and overly mundane sounds of Hardwell or Skrillex that the City of Angels embraces so fully.
The Juan MacLean DJ set at Dim Mak Studios 7/10
In the midst of their California take-over, Digitalism rocked the house at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana Wednesday night, and T&A was lucky enough to catch it! Comprised of Hamburg’s Jens Moelle and İsmail Tüfekçi, and comparable to a post-modern Daft Punk, Digitalism has respectively been on the electronic radar for almost ten years now. Their phenomenal debut album Idealism made them instant giants, perpetually recognized for half a decade on a single album before finally releasing another EP in 2010. Although the duo played a DJ set as opposed to the acclaimed live band performance, the night was far from a letdown.
The Yost was a very impressive place to host the performance for one. Upon entering through the front glass doors you’re greeted by two parallel aisles leading downward to the general admission area; an upper dance floor accompanied by sofas and a full bar(score), and a lower level. The walls are covered in red drapes, giving one a faint sense of culture in the atmosphere, which doesn’t hurt at an 18+ DJ event. The stage was pretty serious. Although a smaller theater, a stage-wide visualizer screen stretched over the front of the DJ booth with Go-Go girls dancing away atop each side. An LED backdrop erupted with a plethora of colorful animations behind the stage, and radiant lasers bounced off two disco balls fashionably hovering above the stage for optimum stimulus. Most importantly, THE SOUND QUALITY. Few events come to mind that could beat it. I could hear the person next to me perfectly, all the while the music was incredibly loud and every single note permeated with crystal clarity. It was like an IMAX for techno. Easily one of my favorite venues.
At about midnight the stage went black, and their logo appeared across the booth and backdrop. You knew what time it was. Digitalism opened with a super spacey “digital” tune, building the mood with such a professional finesse, I mean these guys really had you before you knew it. Not to be taken lightly either, they tore into some high-octane house and nullified any challenge of predictability. Amid a compilation of tech-house beats and their own remixes, they dropped classics such as “Idealistic” , “Pogo”, and “Zdarlight”. Electrifying build-ups kept the energy surging, especially with a dedicated fanbase to hit the peaks with unanimous enthusiasm. Despite being a DJ set, it was mostly composed of their own tracks and edits, and their ability to unleash the right amount of intensity down to every note and calculated execution made it irrelevant at the time anyways. The tracks were certainly tasteful and delivered in a style that mirrors their live show. Crispy house rhythms fused with the trance beauty that Digitalism does so well. Whats great is that the place wasn’t even close to selling out, and they still played an over the top show, full of spectacular theatrics and relentless floor killers. This was West Coast indoor at its best.
Still going strong after forming ten years ago with limited releases goes to show you the power and potential musical genius behind the converging of these two German noggins. What keeps them firmly intact in the electronic hierarchy, and what it always comes down to, is their genuine artistic knack for creative uniqueness, and a good live performance. They expertly carry you through serene sequences of digital love and dance rock breakdowns, and continue to persevere with their classic approach in an era of failed, detrimental experimentation.
Digitalism delivered. What more can I really say?
Dim Mak Studios presented its weekly dance party tradition “Dim Mak Tuesdays” last night, this time with French Express Label throwing a one night disco marathon of back to back performances from Moon Boots, Perseus, Amtrac, and special guest Penguin Prison! Chris Glover, aka Penguin Prison, has formed quite a large following in the New York disco scene, and this week he spent the last few days leaving his mark in Hollywood.
The set opened with Dim Mak’s resident Bones, followed by Amtrac’s low-key, soul/house mixing, which segued into our man of the hour. Glover opened his set with a transition from Amtrac’s belittled closer into The Magician’s club heater “I Don’t Know What To Do, ft. Jeppe (Erkka Remix)”. He followed with his own collaboration, RAC’s “Hollywood (ft Penguin Prison)”, where he provided live vocals for his section. Typically I’m apprehensive to an act of this nature, MC’s have a stale and tacky attitude that interrupts the listening experience, but Glover has an advantage with his amazing voice, it just added a touch of organic charisma to the performance. Although predominately touring with his band, he can definitely hold it together behind the tables. His cuts were precise and the queues well executed. The set was a great mix of contemporary nu-disco chart hits and that Brooklyn DFA disco sound, rich in his heritage. The actual components of the DJ sets were short of revolutionary, basic Pioneer mixers and CDJ software shared by all the artists performing, but because Glover spins tracks that he can proudly stand behind as a producer, he has a lot more integrity than that of your typical resident jockey. At first the crowd was a frail, sparse gathering of teenagers spread across the club’s vast dance floor, cluelessly watching the resident and Amtrac until just before 11:00, when it evolved into a wall-to-wall assembly of Penguin partiers with their game faces on. His closing “I Wanna Be Your Lover” by the influential predecessor Prince, in which he also did a stellar vocal accompaniment to, threw the crowd into fifth gear. The night was far from culmination, Moon Boots and Perseus were basically given the crowd on a silver platter and they kept Dim Mak’s disco ball shining far beyond his Manhattan stylings.
When considering the turntable’s widespread assimilation into almost every establishment in the world that provides live entertainment, it’s essential to maintain intrinsic creativity and use the technology to exploit original ideas, not the ideas of others. Otherwise you’re just a device used for stimulation. Penguin Prison is a true artist in both the production and live performance aspects. He constantly devotes his time to the studio, and adamantly manifests those creations live. After the performance, I caught up with Chris for a brief interview:
T & A: Which do you prefer more, performing with your band, or doing DJ sets?
Chris: Definitely band. I mean, they’re two different things really. I’m trying to incorporate a live element in my DJ sets, singing while I spin, showing fans a good time.
T & A: Do you change up your sets from show to show on tour?
Chris: Yeah, I never know what I’m going to do. I don’t know, I guess I’m trying to do new things with my set everytime.
T & A: Do you improvise the sets or mixes at all?
Chris: Certain songs I like to play. I want to play my own songs, fans like to hear my tracks, so I try to show them that
T & A: Alex Frankel of Holy Ghost did some of the synths on your latest album, do you have a relationship with James Murphy or DFA as well? Have you ever considerd signing to the label?
Chris: Well I know some DFA artists, I’ve spent time in the studio with DFA artists. I have a lot influence from those guys. Downtown records is my label now, we’ve got artists like Major Lazer, Gnarley Barkley, Santigold, the labels good for the music I’m trying to make.
T & A: I know you’re really into playing the guitar, what kind of guitar do you prefer?
Chris: Fender Stratocaster. I’ve tried others, but I like the strat the best.
T & A: What made you stick with the disco-pop/electronic style? You’re style has ranged from punk to hip-hop over the years, and now this.
Chris: I think what I’m doing now fits my voice well. Talking Heads, Prince, Michael Jackson are all influences. I’m trying to give a modern take on them.
Penguin Prison will headed home for a DJ set September 12th in New York, and back here in L.A. early October for Filter’s Future Collide Festival. Self-titled album is out now, and be sure to check out Dim Mak on Tuesday nights! 1643 Cosmo st Hollywood, CA
Camp Bisco Music Festival, presented by the northeastern EDM capitalists Meat Camp Productions, held its 11th annual bash at the Indian Lookout Country Club in Mariaville, New York this past weekend. Acts included Big Boi, Skrillex, Bassnectar, Porter Robinson, Lotus, Oliver, Simian Mobile Disco and A-trak to name a few. As the legendary festival hosts The Disco Biscuits took the stage in anticipated eruption Friday night, true fans of tech house gathered in small number for the Abakus late-night set in the Big Dance Tent.
Abakus initiated the set with digital ferocity. Energy embedded in the first two and half minutes of the mix grants him a swift grip on the audience. Captivating every moment, intrinsic to his trademarked demeanor of an iconic space bass phenomenon, he never missed a beat. Psychedelic rythms and space born crescendos cross over high speed perpetual basslines, self-narrating their journey through the cosmos, and creating an atmosphere both composite of high-tempo industrial chaos and metaphysical insight. Although juxtaposed to the Biscuits, Abakus prevailed with an incredible demonstration of his abilities. Its house music on a cellular plane.
The show itself is performed on Ableton Live with synths and controllers similar to a large portion of DJ’s across the globe, but what sets the great divide between he and them is the fact hes spinning tracks he originally produced and sweat over. As a consequence of his pristine and concise productions, expectations from the fans give surmounting pressure to his on-stage performances, making every event pivotal in his expansion. My first encounter with him was one for the books, taking a headline late night slot at the Big Up Festival in August 2010 where his two hour set(which had to be cut off) made respected spinsters Orchard Lounge look like slackers. The BB King afterparty in NYC and opening slot at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago in late December left fans with a desire for more however, lacking in the unremitting intensity found in his earlier performances in 2010/2011. Support of the Disco Biscuits’ past new years tour served as menial evidence of his capacity to disappoint, but behind the tables, he is a human being(a notion I consider to be arguable) and we forgive him. Abakus quickly persevered these extraneous times and continued to patton his own avant-garde style while maintaining the traditional club house atmosphere that seems to be forgotten in time.
The entity Abakus is the brainchild of Russ Davies, hailing from electro clubbland London. One could compare his sound to a bit of Wolfgang Gartner meets the Chemical Brothers, but unlike many of his peers, Davies is not limited to the restrictions of genre. Finding his niche in both worlds being a producer and live performer after 10 years experience, his project has taken a life of its own as a bass driven Frankenstein. His other monster creation as the alias Cinnamon Chasers, a nu-disco house project more adroit in remixes and edits, has received loads of success as well. He is a master of his own universe. Basically every song he produces gains instant success. Last years release of Prisms, on Modus Records,left critics singing his praises and recently Davies has found a home in the top of the Beatport Charts with the release of Abakus’ third album Futurism Pt1, also on Modus Records.
Precise execution of his serpentine beats and a staunchly tasteful fanbase make Russ Davies’ ascension to greatness inevitable. This years Camp Bisco set was a strong reminder of who the boss of psyche-house is. The performance, featuring tracks from his latest release, was available for live stream on the newly launched DJCN.com and you can listen to the soundboard on Soundcloud now!
1625 N Las Palmas
Los Angeles, CA 90028
7:00pm Free Entry!
The Theare of Arts Acting School and its graduating class of 2012 present playwright David Rabe’s dark comedy Hurlyburly; directed by Darin Anthony and featuring notable performances from Johanna Andari, Aland Brifkani, Bland Brifkani, Cody Kearsley, Alexandra Lavrova, Mattias Ramos, and Rebecka Shirwani.
Set in 1980’s Hollywood when cocaine’s illustrious social status was just in its peak, and narcissism fueled the devices of every man and woman in greater Los Angeles, this pessimistic stage piece centers on four friends, Eddie, Mickey, Phil, Artie, the women in their lives and their dysfunctional relationships. The play is comprised of a dark, complex and witty dialogue that runs its pivotal course from start to end, predominately revolving around the character Eddie’s arrogantly dejected rants. In Rabe’s Hurlyburly universe, inhabited by callous sociopaths, Eddie’s symbiotic relationship with his ego is jeopardized by his desperation of companionship. Mickey(Bland), his roommate, coasts through life free of attachment and turbulence, while Artie(Mattias) and Eddie’s best friend Phil struggle to find themselves among the social pressures of holding composure. Almost a Kevin Smith style turn of the tongue, Rabe’s rendition of a vindictive 80’s Hollywood and its capacity to transform souls in their entirety will bring laughter and insight simultaneously.
The play opens with Aland Brifkani’s character Phil storming into Eddie’s apartment. Aland immediately delivers a great performance. His character demands a consistently well spoken, yet frantic and distraught demeanor, and I was very satisfied with his delivery. His performance possessed a great deal of color to it compared to Kearsleys in the early stages of the production, giving the viewer the impression he is to be protagonist.
Bland Brifkani’s role as Eddie’s roomate Mickey was most entertaining. Bland’s rendition and ad-lib to the sleezey but charming, conceited qualities of his role were quite convincing, accurate to the portrayal of a Hollywood tomcat. Never hesitating to fill any gaps in his performance, I see a natural ability to take the stage, given any variables.
Cody Kearsley’s engaging performance as Eddie was unanimously revered as the highlight. He delivered the complex and witty dialogue with empathetic passion, and without a moment of doubt to be seen. Taking his role far beyond its demands, he successfully bridges the gap between the audience and the story being told, stripping us of our peripheral limitations.
Originally debuted in Chicago, 1984 with reputable stars such as William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Jerry Stiller and directed by Mike Nichols, Hurlyburly has been a Hollywood favorite for almost 30 years. Since then, it was adapted to screen in 1998 by Anthony Drazan and revived on Broadway in 2010. Darin Anthony’s version of the quirky melancholy easily stands up to its predecessors, and gives light to some remarkable actors.
Come to the Theatre of Arts located on 1625 N Las Palmas in Hollywood tonight at 7:00pm and meet these young stars! Free entry and refreshments