Barely half way through the show and still awaiting the headlining acts, Red Rocks Amphitheatre was absolutely blowing up with the sounds of Datsik. Flipping the script on everybody with an explosive remix of M.O.P.'s "Ante Up," the British Columbia producer easily wowed the crowd with enthusiastic mixing, top notch song selection and the most raging set of the whole night.
See Also: - The people of Global Dub Fest (slide show) - Dubstep for Dummies, a primer for newly minted dubstep fans (infographic) - Video: Welcome to the Dubstep Parking Lot - Review: Global Dub Festival at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 5/18/12 - Global Dub Festival survival guide
Following the mayhem of Datsik, Doctor P snuck up on stage played a set that felt rehashed. Save for a few mini-remixes, this set was quite similar to his set at his prior to his last Fillmore appearance. Not that the it wasn't a good set full of great tracks, it's just that the mixing seemed more like a "Recently Played" list pulled straight off one of the fans iTunes.
Look, it's given that Doctor P will play a certain handful of songs. We all expect "Sweet Shop," "Louder," "Big Boss" and "Watch Out," and when they get pulled out, it's basically the equivalent of Van Halen encoring with "Panama" -- you know it's going to happen, you just don't know when. There isn't much left to the imagination anymore with acts like these because they've reached the level where more is expected of them, rather than accepted of them.
Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but once your tracks reach the level of high school soccer team warm up music, you can pretty much declare that you've A), made it, and B), have to play to the masses. Such was the case with the Doctor in the house, and it was great to see him, but his crowd diagnosis was a little off, and the set could've used an adrenaline shot.
Flux Pavilion followed Doc, which has become status quo for the duo when touring America (or in Denver, at least), and just the same, he dropped an expected set with few surprises. It's strange, but within less than one year these guys have hit Denver three times, and each time they play almost the exact same songs. As DJs, these guys have a world of music at their fingertips, yet they stick with the banger tracks that caught the original fans and generally steer clear of much live experimentation.
Flux Pavilion still came on strong and brought the heat, and similar to Doctor P, played tracks that we all love to sing the hooks to before slapping the air and stepping side to side like some sort of 'hood march-in-place. "Bass cannon," and "Cracks," both of which are known worldwide at this point, took over the venue, but as Flux's set winded down, it was apparent that the night peaked early, and couldn't ride a six hour bass wave.
Opening the night, Sub.mission started on the main stage with tag-team sets between Dodger, Coult-45 and Thorazine. Since Sub.mission has pretty much set the tone for how dubstep shows should be, you can expect that if the name is attached you are going to see great music. Personally, I'm waiting for these guys to blow up -- that's not to say they haven't -- but I'm going to smile wide when I see any Sub.mission resident top a bill comparable to something like Global Dub Festival.
The sets are always different and full of diverse, real dubstep. To me, there is a stark contrast between openers and headliners, and that contrast usually lies in the region of fame and recognition, not skill and talent. Sub.mission's residents know how to mix music to the point of exhaustion; they fervently study their track listings, hunting for the next best thing to play that will run in unison with the whole set.
Where it differed on this night in particular was that most people (myself included) couldn't name one song that these guys played. What they can say, however, was that Sub.mission opened and did a stellar job, which is how it should be. The crew played low rumbling bass music that falls in the category of warm-up/prep music. I just want to see them play a set they deserve, and they deserve to be that final blast that will close out a night.
Dirtyloud followed the Sub.mission acts, and boy howdy did this opening bill know how to raise the bar for the headliners. With Dirtyloud, Downlink and Datsik all sitting in the lead-off positions, and with Doctor P and Flux Pavilion batting clean up, respectively, they seriously loaded the bases. Dirtyloud busted out "Needle," a drug-referenced infused track that absolutely got the crowd off the venue steps. The cool thing about Dirtyloud is that they rage on the electro-house, so infusing some heavier bass tones over tracks just gives them an upper hand by means of dancing and feeling the show.
When Downlink came on, it pretty much solidified the weight of the night: His set was full of hard hitting tracks, and as the guy standing next to me observed, "This is the hardest set I have ever heard." Truly, it was hard, and maybe not the hardest ever, but it was loud and robust with bass.
Datsik, as previously mentioned, gets the gold star of the night. His enthusiasm was felt from the bottom to the top, and his awe at the sight of a full Red Rocks was warm and heartfelt. It's nice when everyone recognizes how great this venue is, because we, the rabid fans who attend any and all shows we can at this legendary spot, know this to be true. Datsik's set was still the best of the evening, and as many a patron in the lot prior declared, the most anticipated.
Sub.mission held down the top stage area for most of the night, but ended up breaking down earlier than the main stage. The crowd was consistently minor, but given they were only using a small tent and some humble speakers, drawing a crowd would have been difficult. The true fans stayed at the top fully knowing what they were hearing, rather than flocking to the main stage to catch a glimpse of one of the headliners. Needless to say, on any given night in Denver you'll find any one of these guys playing in front of a couple hundred people, so we can call this training for the big leagues...or something like that.
Personal Bias: I'm still waiting for an epic headlining dubstep act to come out and actually play a long, full dubstep set that is not full of every song I already know. I wasn't anticipating this to be the best show of the summer by any means, but I was expecting greatness and some surprises.
By The Way: I spoke with a woman last week who had some hesitations and drawbacks about taking her thirteen year old son to the show. Her name is Michele, and by random chance, I happened to be standing right next to her during Datsik's set. Not only is Michele the coolest mom I have ever met who is actually embracing her son's interests rather than blindingly denying them, her son Robbie is the luckiest guy in the world. I am by no means telling anyone how to parent their kids -- let's be honest, I still eat Top Ramen in my mid twenties -- but Michele is doing it right by being responsible and open to new things. Kudos to open-minded parents.
Random Detail: As big of a deal as lighting is, the production for this show was sub-par at best. Simple flat LED panels and some go-go platforms. Not the production that the talent warranted.
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