All words: Jeb Gavin
Now, we can’t have parties like in Spain where they go all night
Shut down in North America
Or like Berlin, where they go another night (alright!)
Wandering through the crowd at the U Street Music Hall a half an hour after midnight Saturday evening, I was unsure what to expect from the headlining set. The opener Billy the Gent was “introing” the headliner, which as far as I could tell meant playing jumped up samba at explosive speeds while the crowd eagerly waited on A-Trak.
Perhaps unsure isn’t the right word. I’ve been a fan of A-Trak for the better part of a decade, since he started winning world DJ championships, but I’d almost exclusively known him as a hip-hop DJ. Somewhere between his work as Kanye’s tour DJ and his tracks with Armand Van Helden as Duck Sauce, I was on board for just about anything he could play. His more recent forays into electro drum and bass have been interesting and insightful, and I wanted to see him spin with an open mind (not an easy task for me.)
With the smell of Nag Champa hanging in the air, A-Trak sidled on stage around quarter to one. While the previous DJs spun from the booth overlooking the back of the room, A-Trak’s laptop and turntables looked Spartan, set alone in the middle of the small stage recessed in the wall abutting the entrance to the club. For the next three hours, he proceeded to spin everything from house, to electro D&B, to about an hour in the middle of the set playing the newest rap. If there were electronic music snobs in the crowd, they had whatever flavor they liked to dance to or deride. And U Hall was the perfect venue for such a party, the bass response rippling through an already worked up crowd, removing dental fillings and inhibitions and reverberating against and through all manner of highly vascularized soft tissue like a giant, sonic marital aide. As far as I know, this is precisely the reaction you want out of a dance party in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
This was a killer set. Well constructed, perfectly timed, and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening. I know in the nearly three hours I spent dancing, I enjoyed it. Both the set and the evening were wonderful, at least for me. But here’s the thing: nights like this one, you remember the fun you had, that one track you never expected to hear (a tie between Snap’s “I’ve Got the Power” and the Daft Punk cleverly inserted somewhere after 3AM), you remember whatever weird food craving your friends have on the way home. It’s not just the music; it’s every little thing leading up to and away from it. Maybe your night was shit. Maybe you ran into your boss, or your boyfriend got kicked out fifteen minutes into the show. Maybe you forgot where you parked and spent the night wandering up and down S Street trying to make your car alarm beep remotely. As much as I want to tell you about A-Trak’s show, well, he’s a DJ. He spins records. He makes of the music what we make of our night, nothing more.