By: Anand Harsh
Bass is a religion in Chicago, and this past New Year’s Eve the Portage Theater was the Vatican, the Dome of the Rock, and Mecca rolled into one. Bass Drop 2011 was just as advertised: explosive bass, and lots of it. The lineup included eprom, Bass Science, the Coop, and some of the heaviest producers the Second City has to offer.
The mild-mannered Portage Theater, beautifully adorned in faux Art Deco accouterment is generally reserved for matinees of The Maltese Falcon or Bringing up Baby. NYE brought in a slightly younger, slightly rowdier clientele than I’m sure the place has seen in year. The spot was run by what appeared to be Chicago’s version of The Town, oddly comforting in their leather Wildcat jackets and thick accents. The “bar” was a couple of bottles of well liquor and a plastic jug of orange juice. The beer choice was a Gatorade cooler full of watered down Heineken or “bye-bye.” The best thing about having amateur bartenders is a wink and a tip will get you a stiff drink. Most interesting of all was the laissez-faire attitude of security in the venue. For all you Wire fans, think Hamsterdam with glowsticks.
Throughout the night, there were all sorts of DJs hitting the main stage and the atrium just inside the theater doors. Hardcore drum ‘n’ bass here, slash-and-burn dubstep there. It was a bass junky’s paradise. MC Anti held court in the theater, through a series of acts—though none could really tell who was who. Anti was primarily narrating the steep drops and dizzying drum trips. As far as I could tell, Wolf Pack was the main drumstep conglomerate. I actually ended up counting down the New Year in the foyer with a random DJ hitting jungle grooves and then yelling into the mic “that’s it, Happy New Year!” Moderately anti-climatic, but fun, nonetheless.
The Coop was the oddball of the night, a deliberate swerve from the heavy-hitting DJ sets; however, their showcase was one of the most highly anticipated and well-received of Drop 2011. In sharp contrast to my first encounter at Wuhnurth, the Coop was very flowing and melodic. Building patiently and methodically in the vein of STS9, the band ebbed and flowed with the precision of an act far beyond their years. I guess I should stop being so impressed with their musical maturity, at this point, and just enjoy them already.
By the time Bass Science hit the stage, it was nigh on 1am. Things did not start off on the right foot. MattB’s rig wasn’t getting any juice. A couple of bass blasts through the speaker… and then silence. While the Portage crew scrambled to fix the sound, Devin Landau, the duo’s live drummer, ad libbed a little hip-hop beat for MC Anti. After a minute or two of vamping, the crowd was still hyped, and the Science was ready to kick off. Following hours and hours of slap-happy dubstep, Bass Science was a welcome change. The Midwest is all about the grime and hard-hitting attitude. MattB’s West Coast aesthetic is all about melody and timing, spacing the drops for max effect. His lush lines were chock full of chipsteppery and lo-fi waves of beauty crashing on the barren beat land of Landau’s sparse lines. The greatest part of Devin’s drumming is the spacing. Not trying to play too many notes, or compete with Matt’s computerized rhythms, his licks were clean, crisp, and to the point. True professionalism in the face of adversity shone through during the Bass Science set.
The worst part about settling into 6 Corners to party in the northwest burbs is there’s no escape. In addition to my Bass Drop agenda, I was supposed to catch a double dose of indie electronica with Keys ‘N Krates and Loyal Divide (who will have the album of the year when Bodice Ripper drops in February—mark my words). Then, the plan was to hit up the Kinetic Playground for post-PL with DJ Thibault and Future Rock. The Rock has become a Chicago NYE staple, and Thibault’s new Beast mix (http://soundcloud.com/dj-thibault/beast) is unbearably clutch. Too bad more than a hundred kids from the Portage Theater had spread out all over the Corners trying to catch the same two cabs that rolled through over the course of 90 minutes. Escape was futile, and the bass was calling.
The closing eprom set was marred again by sound issues and a harsh end, although it’s quite difficult to dispute his genius no matter what the circumstances. In speaking with MattB and Landau after the show, it was apparent Sander was upset about being preempted by a ridiculous 2 o’clock curfew. Even clearer was his Twitter response the next morning: “Apologies to anyone who came out last night for the set getting cut short and the wack soundsystem. #shadypromoters.” For those of you, like myself, who missed out on some eprom magic, he just put up a belated holiday gift.
TWERKUL8 - (Starkey SUBFM Radio Rip)
The Bass Drop was ambitious—no doubt about that. Some balls were dropped in addition to the bass; namely, in the sound and scheduling departments. It appears some of the same promoters are involved with the NiT GriT show on Jan. 29th at the Kinetic Playground, so I hope proper precautions will be taken. However, it was only some artists that left with a bad taste in their mouth. Not one sweaty, haggard, and stumbling fan looked disappointed after the 8-hour bass enema. On a personal note, my New Year’s resolution included something about a nap.
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