By: Andrew Brown
By my count, Steve Aoki’s Saturday night performance at the Tabernacle was his third in Atlanta in the last 12 months. I didn’t go to either of the earlier shows, both at Opera, but now I wish that I had.
Before Aoki took the stage, hometown favorite Le Castle Vania (resident DJ at the ever-expanding monthly electro bash Fuck Yesss) rocked the decks for more than two hours. Perhaps it was the different venue, or maybe it was because he didn’t play Aoki’s “Warp”, a Fuck Yesss favorite, but his set, with which I am well acquainted and tends to show little variation, felt…fresh.
The audience danced enthusiastically to Le Castle Vania, but when Aoki replaced him just before 1 a.m., the change in energy was palpable. Fueled partially by the appearance of the main attraction, and by the Dim Mak boss’s own enthusiasm, the crowd’s head bobbing became more violent; its jumping higher. When he was behind the DJ booth, Aoki—wearing distressed grey jeans, a t-shirt, and his signature chest-length hair—jumped, gesticulated, and climbed atop tables. And during his many frequent departures from DJ booth to stage, he interacted with the audience: singing and screaming at them (and into a microphone), touching them, and crowd surfing (once). He also sprayed three champagne bottles on the front rows of the audience over the course of the night; of these I must have absorbed about two with my shirt and face. I think it was Andre.
Seemingly, half the set was spent in the stress-building thrall of the many breakdowns. Some DJs lean on this tool to elicit a reaction from the crowd too heavily, but in Aoki’s hands, each breakdown and buildup was just right—at times modest, at others, when the moment called for it, particularly drawn out and tense.
The wildest parts of the night coincided with Aoki’s hits. The first of these was the sinister “Warp 1.9”. The crowd bellowed upon hearing the song’s instantly recognizable ticking clocks, and when the beat dropped a few seconds later the audience erupted into a full-blown mosh pit that cost me my sunglasses (they were cheap, so it was a fair trade). I’ve heard the song countless times at Fuck Yesss, but never have I seen it get such a huge reaction. Aoki built tension masterfully with loops and filters. He later played the softer “Warp 7.7”, and even reprised “Warp 1.9”. Ordinarily, I hate hearing the same song more than once, but Aoki pulled it off, spacing out each iteration of the song and reading the crowd. Other special moments included an oxytocin-laced rendition of Daft Punk’s “One More Time” (everyone sang along), and Aoki’s “I’m In The House.”
Shortly after draining the third bottle of Andre and disappearing from the stage, Aoki returned for a brief encore, which concluded with (not enough of) Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls On Parade”. I got very excited and inconsiderately jumped on lots of toes.
Before Aoki’s last trip to Atlanta, he said in an interview that he felt as if he had yet to put his “stamp on the city.” After this show, I certainly feel as if he has. I hope he agrees with me, and frankly I would be surprised if he didn’t, considering this past performance. On the other hand—if he doesn’t, he might come back sooner…
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