A-Trak was already technically a great DJ when he was a multiple-time teenage DMC champion. Fifteen years removed from that feat, he’s a great all-around entertainer. Headlining Thursday night’s musical explosion at the 9:30 Club as part of his current nationwide Gold Gone Wild tour, the night’s most intriguing takeaway wasn’t that he knows crab scratching or juggling, but rather that he’s a DJ’s DJ in EDM land, a guy who still wants to read crowds, not lose them and emotionally touch every single person in the room just as fast as he’d want to shake their hand.
Opening for A-Trak was not West Coast trap superstar Salva, but rather hometown heroes Nadastrom. Salva’s flight was cancelled, so Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom stepped in, which certainly gave the night a much different feel. As a DJ, Nada cut his teeth spinning rap and top-40 in DC, so there’s a certain level of relaxed glee and “devil may care” attitude that overtakes the traditional “Nadastrom” set when the aim is to give the crowd something akin to what Salva would drop, but also adding that vibe-driven flair that has dominated Moombahton Massive parties worldwide for the past four years. Thus, the big sell wasn’t hearing their latest single “Fallen Down” from their recently-released (and similarly-titled EP). Rather, it was the drop of the DC duo’s German friends Schlachthofbronx’s dubby turn-up “Lights Off,” as well as Schoolboy Q’s first-half of 2014 dominant trap anthem “Man of the Year.” Yes, there was certainly moombahton, but in getting a bit more expanded presentation, it was a unique reminder that Nadastrom yes, deserve to be regarded as mid-tempo tropical bass dons, but are also still extraordinary open format crowd rockers.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH3_l9z_4us
A-Trak’s set was either the notion that rap’s essence and EDM’s style are more seamless than ever before or A-Trak is such a talented selector, tastemaker and producer that maybe everything isn’t entirely so seamless, it’s just that he’s that damned great at his job. A-Trak’s set meandered through the known, unknown and much more. You know his now five year old remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll.” It was updated for the ratchets in the crowd for 2014, 808s underpinning the re-energized indie electro standby. However, Duck Sauce smashes “aNYway,” “Big Bad Wolf” and “Barbra Streisand” are club crushers as is and in being played unadorned were moments that showcased the rise from intrigue to ubiquity of EDM in America.
As A-Trak hits morphed into whatever A-Trak wanted to play, the night took a turn that at first appeared bizarre, but then, in contemplating the history of dance in America, was commonplace. As I stood in the top ring of the 9:30 Club observing the ribald festivities, a young Caucasian female with blonde hair dyed blue wearing a dress adorned with unicorns and rainbows began dancing to 90s house music. As that morphed into DC go-go favorites the Junkyard Band’s “Sardines,” she was joined by a friend with press-on faux crystals adorning her forehead. That turned into 70s b-boy and 80’s rap staple party break-beats. By the end of the night, there was A-Trak thanking everyone for coming out to the venue and also buying merchandise to support him, as Chic’s 1979 disco hit “Good Times” blared over the speakers. A-Trak plays sets in such a way and with such a level of execution that he creates a relationship of trust with a room where he can journey through 40 years of American club culture in 30 minutes and keep everyone thirsting for more.
EDM’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Pre-Nadastrom openers Mister Selecta and Royal are respectively a growing-in-renown East coast party rocker and a favorite of blog readers worldwide, who have scratched 1/10th of their potential and are already playing shows like these. As for Nadastrom and A-Trak? Well, Nadastrom are party rockers, too, the kind of guys who sound amazing in a dark, sweaty room, and at an arena would make George Clinton proud in uniting one building under strange, funky grooves. As for A-Trak? Five years have passed since his mainstream crossover, and he’s a pop/dance label boss with timeless material now able to remix his own legacy for the modern era. Furthermore, he’s able to meet a populist expectation by not placating people with what they know, but rather staying true to his own, unique designs.
As a DJ who does this for 300+ nights a year A-Trak likely met his expectation of what he demands of himself to have an exemplary night at work. Amazing for us, commonplace for him. Those who attended may not remember the particulars the great two-hour set. What will carry forth are the vibes, enough endorphins being released at the 9:30 Club to keep a smile on every attendee’s faces for say, the next ten days.