Last night, the first of Rusko's two sold-out shows in Colorado had the Ogden bursting at the seams, with glow bracelets (as opposed to the glow sticks popular at '90s raves) dotting the crowd. Denver has earned a reputation for being one of the most intoxicated cities in America, and last night, if you dared to make your way to the front, there was plenty of empirical evidence to bear this out, leaving no doubt that everyone there was out to have a great time.
M80 Dubstation mostly stared into his equipment and manipulated sounds through his laptop. The clanky electronic percussion, glitchy sounds and boom-throbbing bass mixed with cycles of synth swells made for far-better-than-average club music. But with only fog and a lackluster light show, what could have been a stronger sensory experience seemed a little flatter than the music actually was. M80 showed skill and flair in creating an extended outro sequence as Rusko joined him briefly on stage to hook up his own laptop in an effort to keep the transition as smooth as possible. Most of the crowd had been chanting "Rusko!" before M80 was done, which was a little rude but understandable. Pausing rather than slowing the show down, M80 exited as a projection with the words "TCR Countdown" flashed just before Rusko came on stage wearing a Joy Division Unknown Pleasures T-shirt. Before things really got going, some guy, being dragged to the front by his girlfriend said, "Oh, God, I don't want to go in there!" But he had nothing to worry about: This was not a violent crowd. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Rusko whipped the crowd into a delighted frenzy. Maybe it was because he was gauging the crowd, or because he naturally writes beats that seem incredibly dynamic, but Rusko's music seemed to be more robust and exciting than what we had heard in the previous set.
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Rusko was fully engaged in his set. Moving his head and his whole body with the rhythm of the music, he leapt up and down, projecting his own amped enthusiasm into the crowd. That, coupled with his clear confidence and command of the stage, made the show more exciting than it might otherwise have been.
Yelling stuff like, "Are you ready for the bass sandwich?!" before kicking into a dense and groovy section with swimming spirals of melodic synth, Rusko gave his all, and his excitement was contagious. The whole thing evoked an intense club night or '90s-era raves. Think Pete Tong at Ibiza, but on a much smaller scale, or like the heyday of the Hacienda, but not as wild and free-spirited.
At the beginning of his set, Rusko said that he had a whole folder of "new shit" to play, and when he played it, he displayed the same level of enthusiasm that you imagine went into writing the music. The crowd was clearly into it, and Rusko had everyone throwing their hands in the air, pumped for his every move. It was a fairly mainstream dance-club crowd that turned out last night, suggesting that Rusko's dream of taking dubstep to the widest audience possible is being realized.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Not a fan of most dubstep. Rusko is an exception. Random Detail: Rusko's merch wasn't as grossly overpriced as you might expect. By the Way: Drunken youthful bravado while dancing badly doesn't always wear well.