Deadmau5 rose to the top of the dance music world over the past several years mostly by catering to the lowest common denominator. His initial claim to fame, the 2006 B.S.O.D. single "This is the Hook," was written as a joke. When the track rose to number one on the Beatport chart that year, it seemed like the joke was on us. It's still hard to tell just how seriously Deadmau5 takes his music, and last night's show at Red Rocks left me thoroughly uninspired.
Deadmau5's staging -- an impressive, and I'm sure ultraexpensive, setup -- was the focal point of the show. Running Ableton Live from inside his signature cube and wearing his signature Mau5head, Deamau5 brought plenty of style, but not much substance. And, really, not that much style, either. The lights were pretty trippy, sure, but they weren't very aesthetically pleasing. A friend remarked that the aesthetic reminded him of a T-shirt that you'd see at Zumiez, and I couldn't disagree. The lights grew more and more intense over the course of the performance, but Deadmau5's visuals really weren't that appealing overall.
As far as the music, it was a strange combination of rehashed progressive house and commercial dubstep, which really isn't that strange, if you think about it: This is precisely the kind of thing you'd play if you were just in it for the money, which is exactly my sense of Deadmau5. Playing mostly his own material, he had the crowd of late-teens and early-twenty-somethings moving, but he wasn't doing anything special. Generic chord progressions and synth builds fell into stereotypical dubstep breakdowns over and over again. Gratuitous f-bombs were accompanied by the word flashing repeatedly on the screen behind Deadmau5, in case you didn't get it the first time (so much for subtlety). When a vocal came into the mix it was usually pretty nauseating, especially the live vocals toward the end of the performance, which were absolutely horrendous. The defining moment came toward the end of the night, when Deadmau5 dropped a remix of Daft Punk's "Harder Better Faster Stronger." There was nothing harder, better, faster or stronger about the remix -- all it did was remind me just how much better Daft Punk was (both in terms of music and staging) when they played a genre-defining set at Red Rocks in 2007. But maybe that's because Daft Punk is -- and here's a semi-gratuitous f-bomb of my own -- the greatest fucking dance band of all time. In any event, last night's Deadmau5 show was something I could have lived without seeing. Excision went on earlier in the evening, shortly after I arrived. The British Columbia-based dubstep act put together a lukewarm set made up of the most accessible parts of dubstep, electro and hip-hop that really lost the plot when he inexplicably dropped a barely-edited version of Dr. Dre's "the Next Episode" halfway through. Otherwise, Excision played mostly generic, bass-heavy dance music that would generally be considered dubstep, at least outside of serious dubstep circles. Nonetheless, he had the near-capacity Red Rocks audience somewhat engaged.
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Personal Bias: Obviously, I'm not really into this kind of thing. Call me jaded if you want. Random Detail: Didn't enjoy being vomited on by the OD'd raver kid standing behind me. No bueno, dude. By the Way: I noticed security was throwing away glow-sticks at the door. Not sure what was up with that.