All words: Ross Bonaime — All photos: Kevin Hulse
When I walked into Sonar in Baltimore, I was pretty under whelmed. A pair of DJs were performing loud house music to a crowd of no one, a half hour later about ten other people danced like Peanuts characters scattered throughout the small room. I should clarify that I am not that big a fan of house or dubstep music. I’ve survived listening to entire Nickelback albums before, yet I can’t make it through an entire Skrillex song. With that, I must say the first three hours I was constantly looking at the door, wondering if I could possibly escape.
The unknown pair of DJs were loud, fast and fun, but they really didn’t distinguish themselves from other similar bands. During this duo, vendors set up, art exhibits like a prism on top of a box, were put in place, even a tarot card reader set up shop right behind me, complete with a skull smoking a cigarette. As more people filed in, a combination of light up paraphernalia could be seen from any vantage point, from light up hula-hoops, nunchucks, and illuminated gloves. There’s nothing inherently sad about an empty dance floor, so thankfully these people were at least prepared when Chrissy Murderbot set up.
Chrissy Murderbot pumped up the crowd more than the prior act did with his combination of loud bass threading its way into dubstep sounds, combined with the occasional sample. For me, the sound of repetitive dance can put me to sleep, but Chrissy Murderbot changed up his sound just enough to keep me intrigued. It also doesn’t hurt trying to do a dancehall remix of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps” to make my ears perk up.
The true highlight of the night was The Hood Internet. The duo of Steve Sleeve (aka STV SLV) and Aaron Brink (aka ABX) have had a huge week, from releasing their sixth mixtape to having Gus from Breaking Bad appear with them on stage in New York and announcing they’re working with Breakinggifs.com. For some unknown reason though, only Sleeve appeared, but it was more than enough to get the crowd excited.
Sleeve started off with an old Hood Internet favorite, a mash-up of Ice Cube and CFCF entitled “It Was A Rainy Day.” Throughout his hour set, Sleeve presented many new mash-ups from the sixth mixtape including M83 x Mayor Hawthorne, TLC x Holy Ghost! and tUnE-yArDs x Rihanna. Hood Internet mixtapes always lag a bit in parts, but Sleeve definitely picked the best to perform. In addition to new tracks, some old favorites were thrown into the mix, from the incredible combo Just Wanna Dance Yrself Clean, mashing up Jay-Z and LCD Soundsystem, Rihanna mixed with Crystal Castles and even a track from their first mixtape, Dizzee Rascal vs. Cyndi Lauper. And if there’s a better way to end a set then a remix of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” with Major Lazer, complete with audience participation, I’ve never seen it.
When I saw The Hood Internet, complete with both members, late last year, I was pretty disappointed, as they seemed to be heavily experimenting and not exactly sure of their goals in their set. It was a slow, uneventful set that didn’t flow very well. Here though, Sleeve gave the show the best hour possible.
Unfortunately Star Slinger had to follow up The Hood Internet. While the audience seemed to enjoy it just as much as The Hood Internet, if not more so, it didn’t work for me quite as well. Star Slinger’s style is quite varied, however most of what was heard was the hip-hop beats he’s predominantly known for, the kind of sound that can turn Deerhunter’s “Helicopter” into a badass club track.
For his first time in Baltimore, Star Slinger, aka British DJ Darren Williams, kept his set mostly to thumping bass that worked almost like a combination of the prior two acts. He utilized samples better than Chrissy Murderbot, yet with the excitement of The Hood Internet. That being said, it still didn’t have the life that The Hood Internet had, but maybe I’m just biased. The crowd however didn’t have the same problem as I did, going pretty insane with every new beat set up.
The show as a whole started off pretty slow, but the combination of The Hood Internet and Star Slinger ended up making the wait well worth the wait.