photos from the internets
Coming off a pretty decent set at Coachella Valley Music Festival, Canadian DJ A-Trak brought his Magic 8-Ball tour to the district—mind you, I respect the man, but wow… I was left kind of disappointed.
With an 11p set-time for A-Trak, it may have seemed silly to show up three hours early only to stand awkwardly around a near empty U Street Music Hall. However, local DJ Harry Hotter made it worth it; opening with a steady mix of summertime jams, complete with the obligatory “Me, Myself, and I” (De La Soul) and subsequently drawing out the random break-dancer. Is it just me, or do they show up to every U Hall show without fail? I seriously felt as if I was at a neighborhood block-party, only indoors… all that was missing were the beers and hotdogs.
After spinning a longer than necessary, yet totally appreciated, set, The Gaslamp Killer, took to the booth. I had to take a serious double-take because if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear Harry and LA’s GLK were twins—it must be something about the larger than life ‘fros the two sport with pride. One amazingly sick DJ, GLK comes with his own mix of, as he put it, “psychedelic hip-hop meets dub-step infused with soul,” not to mention bass, lots and lots of bass.
His set which carried over long into the later set-times was just one explosive mash-up of everything from “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (The Beatles) to “Spread” (Outkast) to the Bi-Winner himself Charlie Sheen. If the end of the world had a soundtrack, it would most definitely sound like one of The Gaslamp Killer’s mixes. Seeing him DJ was like watching a mad scientist at work; the theatrics and energy he puts into it all really made him standout in my mind. By the way, forget the drum kit, GLK got real dirty using an iPad… yah, I was kind of taken back by that. It was a surprise to hear this was his first time playing in DC (his previous show was cancelled following the DC9 drama; which he comically made note of during his set). I most definitely recommend checking out this beat god if given the opportunity.
Switching gears, and stages, the crowd attention shifted to Chicago rapper Kid Sister, backed by DJ Willy Joy. Feeding off the momentum of GLK, the duo jumped right into the high-velocity, crump-happy, booty-popping music she’s famous for. Opening with newer track “Kiss Kiss Kiss,” then going into “Gucci Rag Top”; it became quite obvious that this wasn’t going to be just a beat for beat replaying of her album. I’ll assume it’s because of the on-stage collaboration of talents between the two which motivated the mash-ups of all her tracks with even more high-energy tracks like “Take Over Control” (AfroJack & Eva Simons).
Kid Sister came strong, ready to party, remixing her track “Control” with the club staple “You’ve Got To Show Me Love” (Michael Mind). I could tell by this point, even those who had never heard of this chick, and were mainly there just for A-Trak, couldn’t help but get enveloped by the sound. Before taking a mid-set break, she brought out a fierce remix to her track “Right Hand Hi”.
Not to be dismissed as simply a backing DJ, Willy Joy doubled as hype-man; tossing in remixes to current hits like Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.” Not to take anything away from him as a DJ, but I wasn’t too crazy about his momentary solo-moment, though his dance-skills during “Switchboard” were pretty on point I must say. Thankfully, before things got too stale, Kid Sister was right back in place with her biggest hit, “Pro Nails”—it’s worth noting that she opted to replace Kanye’s bit with a pretty legit transition into dub-step. My one issue with her set was it’s brevity—it seemed like just as everyone really got into the party mode, she was peace-ing it… which leads me to A-Trak.
Let me start by saying, to any performer who plays before a paying audience, it’s just rude to simply come in, do your thing, and leave without any verbal recognition of your crowd. A-Trak, shame on you for not even once giving a “What’s Up DC” or a “I’m so glad to be playing for you tonight” or even a “Woot!!!” Considering most of the people in attendance were there for him, one would think he would show some kind of appreciation; because on the real, we could’ve just watch him on Youtube in that case. On to the music…
The crowd was definitely into him, I was definitely into him; his set provided a steady mix of hip-hop with occasional ventures into other genres with “Heads Will Roll” (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and the ever club-present Daft Punk & DeadMau5 samplings. What I didn’t so much care for was that besides the few original tracks he spun, it was predominantly just remixing of Top Ten radio hits like “Black & Yellow” (Wiz Khalifa), “All of the Lights” (Kanye West), and “Six Foot Seven Foot” (Lil Wayne). Which brings me to another peeve of mine when it comes to live-performers—bring something new to the table, switch things up. Forgive me for saying, but I saw no distinction between what A-Trak did with what any above average local DJ would have provided any other night at U Hall. To be as talented as he is, and as noteworthy as he is, this was a major let-down.
It was quite evident that the man knows how to DJ—his transitions were flawless, and he had the crowd hyped with everyone dancing well-past 1a (keeping in mind it was a Tuesday night). It was refreshing to hear him bring out some Duck Sauce with “Barbara Streisand,” despite the predictability of that choice, and providing us with some of one of his better tracks which I shall dub “Big Bad Wolf.”
It was pretty evident that U Hall perhaps wasn’t the best venue for him. I could see he his appeal as a touring DJ, and why he did so well at Coachella, but for a small space, with limited interaction, it just all felt felt lacking of any true energy. It’s never a good thing to say this, but I’ve gotta call him out on it: Your openers shouldn’t be better than you… that’s just a rule. In all honesty, I would have rather danced to The Gaslamp Killer for another hour and a half then spend two hours in what felt like any regular night at U Hall. I won’t say never take the chance in seeing A-Trak live, but definitely be aware of what setting you’re going to; because the results could be very different depending on the size and situation.
In case you missed it, check out BYT’s interview with the man himself—providing what some, or rather one, has so affectionately labeled as “a waste.”