By: Anand Harsh
The crowd at a Bassnectar show is a mixed bag. There are the heads who have caught on to the energy and excitement of floor-shaking bass and drums. Then there’s the ravers, who have been around the block, and are riding the wave of Lorin Ashton’s underground success. And finally there are the kids. Lots of them. And young. This is the generation who has grown up with hip-hop and electronic music. The club scene is where they’re most comfortable, and an electronic music show is just an extension of that world. With plenty of disposable income, and a scary ability to party at the drop of a Jager bomb, this is the new face of dance music.
The Bluebird Nightclub, nestled in downtown Bloomington, Indiana isn’t the biggest venue on any major touring act’s tour. In fact, it is the smallest for most. The combination of Bassnectar’s success, an opening slot from the wildly popular Emancipator, and IU’s Halloween week reputation, created a perfect storm for a capacity-bursting evening. The deadly fusion of cramped space and full-body costumes, fostered a sweaty stench rivaling that of a professional rugby player’s jock. The potent amalgamation of youth, booze, stink, and excitement had promoters, artists, and the more experienced members of the crowd a tad nervous at the night’s prospects.
SuperDre had the difficult task of priming and streamlining the growing crowd’s attention. While capturing the attention of a young crowd distracted by three full-service bars, cell phones, and a broken glowstick splattering the dancefloor with toxic pus can be daunting, at the very least, Andrea Wallace AKA Dre made a supreme go of it. Elements of dubstep, minimal electro, and tech house were present in SuperDre’s set. The rumble and rattle of her bass and drums worked their way into the crowd’s bodies and feet like a steam locomotive. She worked the battery hard, keeping the engine chugging along and successfully setting up the rest of the night. With a headliner like Bassnectar, the opening slot can be murder, but Dre held her own, and turned some heads in the process. She’s keeping very good company in the run-up to her debut album’s early-December release; this Grand Rapids, Michigan-based producer is likely to be popping up all over the Midwest.
Building Blox: http://www.superdre.com/buildingblox.mp3
Emancipator’s sound will never whip a crowd into a frenzy. It’s just not that type of music. The subtle tones, moods, and changes of downtempo music are not blazing up the electronic charts, but the crisp coolness of Emancipator’s tracks don’t go unappreciated, garnering a lot of attention among elite circles of producers. Gentle acoustic licks flick and flitter around gurgling bass lines. Never overpowering, drum tracks settle into place, creating a billowy foundation for Oregon-based producer’s light melodic runs. He adjusts a few knobs here, picks up a guitar there, strums a few notes, and then off to the next thing, lithely flitting from instrument to instrument. The Emancipator experience is a waking dream, bathed in a cool, blue glow. The fever pitch of intensity in the club settled into a smooth, pulsing sea of bodies. And as easy as the set began, it’s done.
Before Nectar took the stage, his tour manager hopped on the mic to make a quick announcement. Pleading with the crowd not to throw water, he followed his caveat with a quick explanation of why liquids are dangerous at an electronic music show. The warning was eerily reminiscent of the prerecorded voice at Space Mountain. Lorin Ashton leapt on stage to relieve his assistant, and made a brief statement. “I think my tour manager is scared of you…I’m scared of you. You look crazy.” The admonitions of Bassnectar’s manager were subsequently blown away by the high-decibel onslaught of the crowd. In short, the crowd lost their shit.
Bassnectar served up a heaping helpful from his new Wildstyle EP, which features a bevy of throwback drumlines—mostly notably on the aptly-named 808 Track. His rewrite of Amp’s Hot Right Now had the packed Bird doing the hip-hop tomahawk in unison and shouting along at the top of their collective lungs. The release, only a few days old at showtime, combines Ashton’s signature abrasive wobble with the fuzzy new electro sound. Along with the fusion of hip-hop into the darker electronic sound, he’s added lush indie rock runs with soaring vocals. Those of course descend into the dizzying madness of blaring bass and pulsing drums, all wrapped up in nice, neat packages no more than 90 seconds in length. Perhaps Bassnectar is aware of the epidemic rates at which his audience has been diagnosed with ADD.
I must give credit to Mr. Ashton for mixing up his samples. While he does thrill the youngsters with hip-hop references from their zone of understanding, he sticks to the classics. I’m talking of course about Dizzee Rascal. I will never fail to give props to a DJ who drops even a verse of the UK’s grime maestro. For those producers who wish to bash hip-hop sidelong into their dubstep tracks, there’s no better rhymester than Rascal, whose staccato delivery falls perfectly upon the syncopated bursts of the dub beat. Kudos.
If the crossover success of deadmau5 is any indication, the meteoric rise of Bassnectar’s star will soon veer into more and more mainstream venues. Not only does he sample the hippest acts in hip-hop, but his underground electronic roots are being mined by producers in the pop universe. Literal commercial success is right around the corner. Don’t be surprised when you catch an Ashton original in a TV spot hocking cell phones or blue jeans. I hear that’s what the kids are into.
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