By: Josh Krol
Chicago is often referred to as the home of house music, but lately it’s been a harbor for the nationwide dubstep craze. When Steve Aoki hit the Windy City with his animated DeadMeat tour featuring one of his favorite Dim Mak acquisitions Datsik, the hype was undeniable as eager electronic music lovers filled Chicago's Aragon Ballroom with glow sticks and glove lights in hand for the late February blowout.
Aoki’s first full length album, Wonderland, dropped last month, and this 45-date tour is a chance to promote to sell some records, as well as a reason to unveil the new visual stage show both Datsik and Aoki were both excited to unleash on unsuspecting fans.
Some of the freshest up-and-coming DJ’s and producers accompanied these two party monsters on tour. This Chicago date featured the electronic duo Mustard Pimp. These bonus Dim Mak labelmates were joined by a live drummer and really worked the crowd. Although the audience was fairly quiet and nonplussed for most of their set, the Pimps eventually broke through and got a couple break dancing circles started by the end of their set.
“Who’s ready to fucking party?” was Datsik’s greeting as he took the stage. The crowd roared a roll call. Then his signature bass-blasting beats filled the venue with wobbles and mighty dub sounds. Troy Beetles’ new material shifted from his normal grimy dubstep to more of a poppy dub bounce. As his moniker illuminated the front of his DJ table, Datsik layered many remixes including Pretty Lights and Avicii. Between hopping on his DJ table to hype the crowd and his aggressive head banging, his transitions and tempo changes remained flawless. He continued to rip through crowd favorites including “Nuke Em” and “Swagga,” but by the end of his set his reliance on drops from other DJ’s including Skrillex, Bassnecter, and Rusko became overabundant and detracted from his own talents. By the end of the set the crowd was a steamy, sweaty mess as they applauded Datsik’s efforts and waited anxiously for Aoki to take the stage.
The DJ table was surrounded by large illuminated AOKI letters, which prompted the crowd to start chanting his name. "A O KI, A O KI, A O KI!" Finally, Aoki took the helm at the front of his DJ table, raised his hands high, took a quick snapshot of the crowd, and jumped right into his up tempo set that even had the balcony bouncing. After unleashing “Tornado” and “Warp,” Aoki followed the trend of mounting the DJ table and was armed with a bottle of champagne in hand. The high energy hype that surrounds Aoki’s live sets certainly did not disappoint. After a few chugs he hopped down from his table on started sprinting across the stage screaming the vocals to one of the harder songs off the new album, “The Kids Will Have Their Say.”
From screaming to climbing, Aoki eventually ended up on the side balcony of the Ballroom positioning himself to make a freefall onto an air mattress he positioned in the crowd below. After crowd surfing for a bit he returned to the stage to lay down one of his popular new singles, “Ladi Dadi.” After that he wiped the sweat from his face and stopped the music. “Welcome to the Church of Aoki,” he said. A couple emerged from backstage joined by Datsik, Kill the Noise, and Jonathan Davis from Korn. Aoki recited the traditional wedding vows before making the couple get on their knees and make-out on stage before getting “caked.” After they both got a face full of wedding cake Aoki sent the couple off on the air mattress that was carried by the crowd and was surrounded by laughter and applause.
Finally, Aoki jumped back behind the DJ table and ripped through classics like “No Beef” and “I’m in the House” before ending the fun and exciting set with his rendition of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” which came as a pleasant surprise to many in the crowd.
With all the stage dives and enthusiastic performances from each of the artists that took the stage that night, we really did feel like DeadMeat when the lights went out and the crowd swarmed like cattle toward the exits.
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