Deadmau5 brings out the party kids in droves -- and with good reason: The light show alone is enough to drag you off your couch to a dance party on a Wednesday night. And when you combine the amazing visuals with Deadmau5's signature playful, intense style, it's an experience that brings fans of electronic music flocking.
Before the Canadian mouse-headed producer and DJ took the stage, though, Colorado's own Jonas Tempel, CEO of Beatport, took to the decks to warm up the crowd for the headliner. Tempel's always enjoyable to watch and hear; his eclectic taste filters through his music, and he skips from subgenre to subgenre, rarely missing a beat.
He'll bring in electro-inspired crashing beats and meld them with haunting slide noises, a la Twilight Zone aliens, then pare everything down to a simple drumline before speeding back up and dropping in robotic wah-wahs with squeaky sirens and wails. You might hear a crashing guitar line mixed with dirty, insistent syncopated bass lines and beats, representing the dubstep area of the electronic-music world, before he moves back into house.
Tempel utilized samples from Snoop Dogg's "Just A G Thang," transitioning into hard, dirty, fast breakbeats before dropping an anthem track, complete with over-the-top female vocals. His sets are unpredictable and fun like that: He'll move from classic techno into club-nation trance and keep the audience enraptured the entire time.
The more unusual mixes are inevitably the most entertaining; toward the end of his set, Tempel played the opening guitar riffs and stanza of Metallica's "Enter Sandman." As the lyrics built into the chorus, the crowd became more engaged with the mix, and Tempel delighted the building by playing the sample through the end of the first chorus. While James Hetfield growled, "Off to Never Never Land," Tempel brought the mix into a slow R&B jam.
As enjoyable as Tempel always is, the crowd was primed for Deadmau5, and after one of the shortest set changes in electronic-music history -- less than thirty seconds -- the familiar silhouette bobbed above the light-up cube that Deadmau5 had also brought to the Global Dance Festival.
At first the DJ stand seems like any old cube, turned on its side and jaggedly bisected, and Deadmau5's mask seems like just another gray mouse head -- albeit with neon-blue outlines. But as the set gathers steam, it becomes apparent that the box and the mask are both integral parts of the show, displaying unbelievable visuals that pulse in time with the beat.
Deadmau5 began by building up with a steady syncopation, gradually growing faster, like a train gathering steam. He added a distorted synth line before dropping into deep, dirty bass, and an eerie organ melody emerged from the sounds while a searing guitar line began directing the energy in the room.
The synth lines melded with a hyper bark growing increasingly shriller in the mix before breaking in a crescendo. It's dance music, pure and simple, and that's exactly what everyone in the room was doing: dancing. Deadmau5 is a master of the craft; his mixes are nearly imperceptible (except when he wants you to notice them).
And the light displays are truly incredible. On top of the giant light-up box, there was a row of vertical rods that lit up in different colors, plus an entire wall of LED lights behind that. When the box, light rods, LED wall and mouse mask were all working in unison, it was truly a sight to behold.
Deadmau5 dropped into "Sofi Needs a Ladder," sassy and hard and dirty with some house-like beats mashed up with techno-style keys while dotted lines outlined the edges of the cube. While keeping the house beat, he introduced a scratching sound -- like a record spinning backward -- with a clap, and as this new track reached a crescendo, green vines (or maybe tentacles) began waving over the cube, increasing their tempo with the music before dissolving into organic red floating designs, like watching embers in a bonfire travel into the night sky.
This new visual was greeted with an electric guitar line and deep, pulsing bass, dropping into a faster, more complex track with hollow yelps fading into the beat. Typical of Deadmau5, he starts with simple sounds, adding layer upon layer as he progresses. Once everything he has is dropped into the sound, he winds up the crescendo and starts again. He's a fan of ever-increasing sirens, which might drop into a bouncy beat with ray-gun effects or spooky organ noises perfect for Halloween.
True to form, Deadmau5 had the audience engaged throughout the performance -- but not at the same level the entire time. Of course, everyone ate up his hit "Ghosts 'N' Stuff," the somewhat depressing lyrics spliced with a happy, energetic beat and dark organ and bass lines. The eerie organ effects were highlights of the performance, and the light show blended in perfectly, from flowing script about Deadmau5 being a bionic mouse to the recurring error message (also seen at Global) and robotic voice intoning "Sometimes things get complicated" while the mouse-head mask lit up in an evil grin.
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Like Tempel, Deadmau5 plays with genre boundaries: Sometimes he's pure electro, sometimes house, sometimes both, sometimes garage, sometimes trance, sometimes old-school techno. Whatever he does, his music is definitely dance-worthy, and the visual show is amazing. It's no wonder he packed the Fillmore on a Wednesday night -- and there's no doubt he'll do the same when he returns to the venue for a second show tonight, Thursday, October 7.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: An electronica purist, I don't believe electro house is a real genre. If it is, Deadmau5 is the closest anyone's come to actualizing the sound. Random Detail: Everyone was dancing at this show -- from the security guards to the guys selling water on the floor. And that includes a sheeted ghost, who danced behind Deadmau5 in his light-up cube for a few minutes. By the Way: Some girls tried to jump the line in the downstairs girls' bathroom by claiming they were Deadmau5's sound technicians and the show would start late if they didn't get to pee immediately. A hint, ladies: a) Sound technicians don't dress like that for work, and b) There is an upstairs girls' bathroom that's all VIP, which sound technicians would have access to -- hence no need to muscle your way into the downstairs toilets. I'm glad you got called out on your shenanigans and were told to get back in line.