all words and photos: Marie Formica
At this point, British DJ Gareth Emery is a household name in electronic music. Last year’s “Sanctuary” was the dance hit of the summer, and this year’s “Concrete Angel” is shaping up to be the same. Ten years ago the self-labeled trance / techno / house / electro DJ (whew) sent a famous DJ the CDR of a song he mixed on a two week vacation in France, and in typical overnight success story fashion, the DJ played “Mistral” and this blew him up to star status at the age of 22. His following has stayed solid, evidenced by the huge crowd at Fur on Saturday night. Classically trained in music from childhood Emery has an excellent grasp of songwriting. That and his drive to create original content (not common in the dance music genre) provide the huge, surging audiences like the one I saw on Saturday.
It’s no wonder he’s backed up by the biggest DJs in the business (Paul van Dyk, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, Ferry Cortsen). During his set, the feel-good resonant rays of sound kept people packed in the club. There was no room to walk on the dance floor all the way back to the entrance doors without getting danced into by energetic fans.
Emery regularly spliced in “ordinary” samples that remind he’s in touch with reality, not wrapped up in the electronic scene cocoon. Particularly memorable was the mashup of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” A long remix of also British band Keane’s “Silenced by the Night” had the audience rocking out, despite the sample song’s core roots as a slow romantic tune. Emery also snuck in a nostalgic Super Mario sound effect and snippet of guitar from “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Labeled “intelligent trance” by critical reviews, he’s got a formula that never fails. The beginning of each song was a percussion-free, pre-song doldrum, from which the single thread of a catchy melody or a high breathless female vocal was played. All the while, beats were faded in creating a signature build up that drove people wild. Mid-song, he used an effect on the beat to create a consistency as though heard underwater or through a wall, making way for the crystal clear main vocal line. Then, he dropped the whole thing off into a lull valley until the next song was queued up.
The crowd sang along with “Concrete Angel” and danced hard, enticed by the elevated backbeat. The club mix of “On a Good Day” had infinite, melodically unrelated dance breakdowns and a lot of dreamy synths. At this point in the night, Emery also tried his hand at dubstep (you crazy kids and your crazy dubstep) opting for the wobbly, bubbly and scratchy high sounds of dub (rather than that signature wub wub bass). His set also included remixes of “Will You Leave a Light on For Me” and snatches of Coldplay’s “Paradise,” followed by techno solo work. He flicked the switch (that one he has to rev the audience up again and again), on and off without moderation Saturday night.
Emery was played in by Glow resident DJ Roberto Gonzales, who also had a good response from the crowd that filtered in. If you listen closely to his sound, you’ll find it unsurprising that he was asked to play a guest set by Kaskade in Las Vegas. He got positive, fist pumping reactions from the same crowd Emery thrilled, although he used a slightly different style (vaguely tribal, good use of club friendly bass, gratuitous use of tense build-up). Quality samples, a strong command of seamless mixing and a solid feeling for the crowd left the club (if you’ll excuse the term) jumping before Emery got into the booth.