all words: Marcus Dowling
all photos: Kevin Hulse
Steve Aoki’s Saturday night, Deatmeat Tour headlining set at Fillmore Silver Spring delivered Iggy and the Stooges’-like Raw Power with a hard electro groove. If looking for less high-minded sentiments for the evening, it was a blend of Andrew WK meeting GWAR with a dash of legendary 80s comedian Gallgaher. With nine of every ten attendees of this show too young to appreciate who any of those people are, this was teenage angst set free, a brand new emotion in a brand new time.
It was a loud, brash display, and quite literally, a mess. Add in the talents of top Canadian dubstepper Datsik and DC’s own unsung electro hero Alvin Risk, and it was a recipe for a beautiful disaster.
Dim Mak Records chief Aoki embraces the absurdity of his existence. Hard electro isn’t heavy, yet minimal by comparison nu disco. It’s the symphony of id, the soundtrack of freedom at its most progressive edge. 2010’s “I’m In the House” with Black Eyed Peas conspirator Will I. Am’s alter ego “Zupher Blaq” was Aoki’s true mainstream coming out party. The Los Angeles native’s ability to maneuver his punk-inspired, four-on-the-floor noise rave directly onto the tracks occupied by top 40 pop is impressive. It amplifies the pop spirit of any moment, exploding those stereotypes in a brilliant display of lights and bass.
From his latest artist album Wonderland, 2011’s “Wake Up Call” with Dutch house champion Sidney Samson did more than what the shrill hook of “WAKE UP!” demanded. On Fillmore’s impressive sound system, trademark Dutch percussion with Aoki’s trademark style sounded like a thundering herd from the future – 400 horsemen implying both the apocalypse and beyond.
Aoki’s show is a unique interactive experience. What started three years ago as merely spraying his crowd in champagne has, much like the man himself, become a complete disasterpiece. A bullet point list is required to highlight the proceedings:
- Three inflatable beds appeared which served as “rave rafts” allowing opener Alvin Risk and various revelers the chance to crowd surf in “comfort.”
- Aoki dedicated a track to “vegetarians,” then tossed a large bowl of salad onto the crowd.
- Aoki then produced a chocolate sheet cake with vanilla icing. After amping up an already delirious crowd, he practically slam dunked the cake on a female resident of the front row. Adding absurd ignorance to apparent pleasure, Datsik doused the same young woman in 32 ounces of Rockstar energy drink.
- ANOTHER cake was produced. Another front row partier met a similar fate.
- Steve Aoki grabs a $5000 SLR camera. He promptly proceeds to leap 10 feet into the crowd and crowd surf with said camera.
- The coup de grace? Dumping an entire plastic garbage can of ice and water on a group of kids in the fourth row.
Canadian dubstepper Datsik simplifies the pop dubstep concept to its simplest essence. Wobbly, glitchy and break-driven, it’s an anathema to dubstep’s old school desire to be a dub reggae journey into a vibe-driven experience. His sound is the heavy bass version of Jolt Cola. The journey is a thunderbolt to the cerebellum, the vibe, a full body revulsion steeped in glee. From his own tracks to dropping Skrillex’s remix of Avicii’s ubiquitous prog house mainstreamer “Levels,” it was a blistering sonic assault.
DC’s Alvin Risk is outstanding to a degree that few can truly grasp. His greatest skill is a surgical one, inserting pop music’s beating heart into places that mainstream fans believe have no soul. Seemingly the most insignificant of gifts, it’s this talent that makes heavy hitters into timeless classics, or also rans into competent productions. On paper, Steve Aoki’s collaboration with Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo sounds like a colossal mistake. Risk’s remix of the track is its saving grace, a hook-driven electro-dubstep concoction saving the day. Risk’s non-remix work though, is a different story. His surgical mind also creates the most complex of melodies, and while moombahton fanatics love his collaboration with Tittsworth on “Pendejas,” these kids value noise over melody, moombahton falling short in this particular pop atmosphere. An opening set involving him, a microphone and an enormous video wall merely scratches the surface of his talents.
Music creates the space for emotional freedom. In creating an immediate visceral reaction for that enlightened moment, Aoki excelled.