By: Andrew Brown
Some DJs aren’t schooled in showmanship. They crouch over their laptops, eyes glued to the screen, almost antisocially. Or they stand listlessly behind their mixer and slide faders with apathy. They might fist pump for a few bars if they drop a particularly gnarly beat, or light up a cigarette to punctuate the long periods of standing. Maybe they play good music and maybe they don’t, but these DJs aren’t fun to watch.
Rusko is not one of those DJs. He brings the energy and spectacle of a punk rock show to each of his performances, an impressive feat considering that he tours relentlessly.
His performance at Atlanta’s Masquerade last Thursday (his second there in six months) was no exception. For nearly two hours Rusko bounced feverishly behind his laptop. When he twisted a knob on the mixer he didn’t just twist it – he threw his whole body into the motion. He pelvic thrusted and defiantly flipped middle fingers to no one in particular. He frequently addressed the crowd, yelling into a microphone. That no one could understand a word (a combination of his accent and the noise), was irrelevant – all that mattered was that he was pumped. Rusko is the Iggy Pop of dubstep.
His set was no less frenetic, designed to never let the audience stop moving. He mixed into and out of tracks quickly, seldom playing one song for more than a minute or two. And he didn’t play all dubstep, occasionally bringing in songs with a house four-to-the-floor bass thud. This was fine with the audience, some of whom had been dancing for hours by the time Rusko came on – they never stopped jumping. He rewarded them with his hits, playing “Pro Nails” and “Woo Boost”, and his remixes of “Take Me to the Hospital” and “Day n Night”. Every portion of every song was high-octane and hype. He didn’t play so much as a breakdown – Rusko expects you to dance. Continuously. In the entire set he gave the audience just one moment to catch its breath: a short Imogen Heap interlude, so incongruous with the rest of the music that it was almost comical.
The end of the set was a sprint to the finish line, a mixture of dubstep and drum and bass, that included both Rusko’s original mix of “Hold On”, arguably his biggest song to date, and Sub Focus’s remix of it. The audience was moshing at this point.
After his last song Rusko disappeared backstage, letting the audience recover, but only for a minute. He was back moments later, launching into a short encore beginning with his mega-hit “Cockney Thug”.
Sadly, the last Rusko show at Masquerade ended in violence when a man was fatally shot outside then venue. This show ended without incident – the only physical damage was to my hearing. My ears were still ringing when I woke up the next morning.
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