Sprawl of Sound

The last few days of any year in clubland tend to be crammed with eventful events, and 2007 was no exception. The following is a rundown of some of the action I experienced as 2007 was slippin' into darkness.

At Detroit Bar on Dec. 28, globetrotting DJ Steve Aoki deigned to zoom down from his LA homebase, where he runs Dim Mak Records and hosts Tuesday nights at the hipster magnet Cinespace. I wrote a snarky preview of his OC appearance on the Heard Mentality blog, but after witnessing the trendsetting jock live, I have to eat my acerbic words (yuk). Aoki displayed incredible energy and impressive dance moves behind his Serato setup, and his track selection was better than expected. His enthusiasm is contagious, and as the night progressed, I began to understand why promoters worldwide clamor to book him.

Starting with 20 Fingers' “Short Dick Man” interspersed with Isaac Hayes' “Theme From Shaft” (ha!), Aoki got the crowd amped right away. Out the gate at a furious tempo, he generated body heat with solid, abrasive uptempo electro-house. His set was dominated by hard-charging, noisy tanz musik—the club equivalent of arena metal—and mercifully, he deviated from the playbook from which many younger DJs operate, including the night's opener, the utterly predictable Mr. White (while both dudes dropped Federico Franchi's “Cream,” that's one anthem I can hear twice a night till doomsday without complaining).

That is, until later in the set, when a string of familiar cuts began to seep through: Daft Punk's “One More Time,” that ubiquitous remix of Pink Floyd's “Another Brick in the Wall,” House of Pain's “Jump Around” (ouch). During that last song, Aoki walked on the tables, precariously raising a bottle of Grey Goose, and then, as Daft Punk's “Around the World” played, one of Aoki's crew poured champagne into the crowd.

A series of revamped classic-rock staples then streamed by and, unfortunately, Justice Vs. Simian's totally played-out “We Are Your Friends.” But Aoki recovered from that misstep with the climaxing “Can You Feel It?” by the Jacksons. Oddly, though, the house lights abruptly came on, and the night ended without even applause.

Afterward, I came to the realization that clubbing now is at least as much about audience members snapping photos of themselves and others as it is about the music. With the amount of (mostly) digital-camera flashing going on, strobe lights have become redundant. Just let the pro and amateur photographers bathe everything in strident shafts of light, and voila, you're set for dramatic chiaroscuro. Sorry to be curmudgeonly about this, but things have gone awry when people seem way more concerned with their cameras than with the talent onstage. What? Everybody's a star now? Okay.

The next night at Detroit, Soul Hustlers made the Wax Poetics aesthetic come to vibrant life. (Wax Poetics is the excellent New York-based magazine dedicated to extolling the pleasures of crate-digging and funk, soul, jazz, hip-hop, psychedelia, etc.) Joined by Mars Volta/Free Moral Agents keyboardist Ikey Owens, the Hustlers proved themselves to be ultra-competent torchbearers for '60s/'70s soul and funk, genres always worth resurrecting. And they do a mighty-fine cover of William DeVaughn's blissful soul balm “Be Thankful for What You Got.” The night's DJs—Plann B and Steelman—spun excellent tunes all night, too, including Afrodisiac Sound System's brilliant Queen/Fela Kuti mash-up.

On Dec. 30 at Avalon, the 41Dub posse started what I think is Orange County's first dubstep night. Halle-fuggin'-lujah! Led by MCs Taylor Smith (see “Philanthropist on the Mic,” Nov. 21, 2007) and MC LD, 41Dub showcase the tar-black, gut-rupturing bass pressure that marks the London-centric dubstep genre. DJs Uome, Steady and Kelly D brought the heavy tunes that you feel as much as you hear, causing people to bend knees and sway more than actually dance. A strong crowd for a Sunday right before New Year's Eve gathered for some of the most downcast party music ever. Stay tuned for more coverage of 41Dub here.

New Year's Eve at Alex's Bar was a blur of flirtatiousness, booze and killer soul/funk tuneage from DJ Rodi that was unfortunately punctuated by a total-buzzkill set from duo Panda No Panda (painfully unfunny white-schlub comedy rap and electro ditties). Bye, 2007; don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya.

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Want to get in a quick mention of a show that didn't make it elsewhere in the paper: Mike Relm will be opening forBlue Man Group Saturday at the Honda Center (holy shit, tickets start at $175). The San Francisco-based laptop disc/video jockey puts on a spectacular show that's musically exciting, visually clever and often laugh-till-you-cry funny. Think Girl Talk, but with devastating scratching and eye-popping graphic skills. Visit www.myspace.com/mikerelm for more information.


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