Levitate Festival at 1STBANK Center, 4/20/12
Rusko at 1STBANK Center on Friday night.
See Also: • (Q&A) Rusko: "I, of course, support medical marijuana, and I am clearly a patient." • (Profile) OMG! Rusko's stepping into mainstream territory with his new album • (Review) Rusko, M80 Dubstation at the Ogden Theatre, 09.21.10 • (Review) DJ Shadow at the Ogden, 11/19/10 • (Review) DJ Shadow at Ogden Theatre, 2/7/08
Rusko pulled out all the sticks and stems to absolutely light up the 1STBANK Center with some heavy, bong-shattering bass. The U.K. skanker promised that he would not let anyone stop moving for his entire set, and he kept his word, blasting the venue with what might be the hardest hitting version of "Everyday" that has ever been played.
Christopher Mercer is the man. Billed as Rusko, the dubstep king came out hard and heavy from start to finish perched atop a simple, transparent, centerset booth. With nothing fancy as far as lighting (basically, no LED panels or lasers) -- save for the massively lit "RUSKO" letters dangling behind him that occasionally rose and dropped on their cables -- Rusko jogged through every banger he had, pulling out classic samples from "Woo Boost," "Hold On," and even a super hard remix of Dire Straits "Money For Nothing."
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With a successful convergence into the American mainstream thanks to a recent collaboration with 4/20 go-to rappers Cypress Hill (who played the Ogden Theatre on the same night), Rusko has transitioned from underground dubstep producer to international sensation.
Though lacking in bodies for most of the night -- it was 4/20, obviously, and it's almost a given that everyone will be late on 4/20 to whatever commitment they've made -- by the time Rusko took the stage, the coveted general admission floor was packed front to back with bodies. With each transition, Rusko hopped around his small booth punching the air, rockstar posing, pointing out fans and generally keeping the energy levels high.
DJ Shadow at 1STBANK Center on Friday night.
DJ Shadow, the third act on the bill, brought out the ShadowSphere and prefaced his show by claiming that he makes, and plays music to inspire. For 27 years, Shadow has been honing his craft on the turn tables, and this fact is quite obvious the second he begins his set.
The ShadowSphere, in all of its reputable glory, is really quite a simple stage production. The seven foot in diameter globe sits dead center on the stage with corresponding projected images coming from both sides that also project onto the white background. It's a visual journey that accompanies a fantastic performance, but by no means does it, er, over-shadow the music.
With the experience he has in production, Shadow doesn't really DJ to a crowd anymore. It's more like we all showed up to listen to a great author read to us, the awe-struck fan base who has rabidly followed him since before Preemptive Strike, and we were all willing and eager to listen. He, of course, delivered an amazingly orchestrated performance, and closed with "Organ Donor," playing the drums live on a drum pad next to his tables, reminding everyone how and why he has done this for nearly three decades.
Paper Diamond at 1STBANK Center
Paper Diamond -- whose next release is being issued on Diplo's Mad Decent imprint -- has definitely stepped up his game. With perfectly mastered beats tweaked with acute precision, Paper Diamond brought the tempo up and down bouncing from early cuts off Levitate to dropping new jams off the forthcoming Wavesight.
The new album's tracks show off a different side of Paper Diamond not seen before, as Alex Botwin seems to have found his niche in the electronic music world. It's heavy, but it's not dubstep. He's infusing those lovely female vocals that drive everyone crazy, but it's not that Kaskade style of loveliness, more a properly produced track that is banking on tone and melody rather than catchy hooks and massive drops.
The set couldn't have been more appropriate for the show. It was fast paced enough to get everyone grooving, but didn't steal the shine from the forthcoming acts. Botwin still plays the iPad like it's a rockstar, offering it out the reaching crowd before dropping into another beat. It's a sight to behold watching someone play a small piece of metal like that, and whereas I was once hesitant to accept it, technology is evolving just as fast as the music, and embracing the new instruments is part of that.
Pictureplane opened up the show. The filling crowd kind of stared as Travis Egedy sang through his tracks, occasionally tweaking a sound and distorting the vocals with various effects. His two back-up dancers played around the stage in various costumes, mostly looking like they were just having fun. Egedy moves around the stage with a certain seduction, deeply eyeing the crowd at random times, smirking a shit-eating grin, and then went back into song. It's was enticing while at the same time provocative, and therefor interesting to witness and experience.
Levitate didn't let anyone down, and for some reason, that sentence just makes sense.
Personal Bias: It has been my dream to see DJ Shadow since I was in high school. Whereas I wasn't a huge fan of The Outsider album, I still appreciate everything he does musically.
By The Way: It was 4/20. Duh!
Random Detail: Rusko is a very open advocate for the medicinal herb, and reminded everyone that it was, in fact, April 20th. There were smoke machines on hand, but they seemed a little redundant with all the shared herb being passed around. 1STBANK Center? More like 1STDANK Center.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
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