Concert Review: OWSLA Label Showcase at Slake

Sunday night, as you all know, was the Oscars (and a memorable one at that!). I, however, am not really a movie person and I had seen a record breaking ZERO Oscar-nominated movies this time around. So I needed something else to do.

My friend Cody told me about an OWSLA showcase going down at Slake, which many of you may recall is Skrillex’s record label. Every time there’s an OWSLA party it’s rumored that Skrillex will show up, and he often does. I was a little skeptical seeing as he just made an announcement that he’s taking time off from electronica-land this year, but I knew this would still be a perfect, non-Oscar-watching way to spend my Sunday evening. Particularly when I saw that Israeli electro-funk band The G-Nome Project would be playing in a different room of the same venue that evening, and even though you needed separate tickets for the two shows, I was able to snag a G-Nome ticket on Jukely for free(ish).

I arrived at American Beauty (the downstairs venue from Slake), which hosts a bar you can hang out in before entering the ticketed part of the venue. I estimated that about 95% of the people were there waiting to go to the OWSLA party and 5% were waiting for the G-Nome Project. About 1% of the people there were reading a book like they were in a coffee shop (that was me – I am reading this book, and so far it is excellent).

I stopped by the G-Nome Project first, and it was awesome. I had heard of the band a number of times but never listened to their music, and I loved it. The guys were clearly having a blast on stage, the audience was into it, and they had a live painter, which is always fun. After awhile I decided to go upstairs and get my dubstep on.

The lineup of the OWSLA showcase was a secret, but going down the list of artists on the label’s website, here’s who I would have loved to see (without regard for how realistic or unrealistic it was):

Basecamp
Kill the Noise
Marshmello
Mija
Milo & Otis
Skrillex
Valentino Khan
What So Not

I was happy to see set times posted (not so secret anymore, are you, lineup?) and less than happy to see that I had never heard of anyone on it. I pulled up the OWSLA artist list on my phone and confirmed that out of the names present on the set list, only one – DJ Sliink – was even listed there. Huh?

I went inside and even though it was after 10 and the show was supposed to start at 9, no one was DJing. But they were bumping a solid 90s hip hop playlist and I was happy. A number of people walked across the stage and seemed to be instagramming the audience, but none appeared to be intent on playing any music. I kept dancing. I decided to count the number of people who were wearing the same OWSLA jacket, and thought it strange until I remembered there had been an OWSLA pop-up shop downstairs at American Beauty that afternoon. I lost count of the jackets after 8 or 9.

owsla

Suddenly, without fanfare, the music abruptly changed from hip hop to some heavy house music, and the crowd cheered. I looked on stage and there was still no one who appeared to be playing any music.

After awhile someone did step up behind the computer. I asked around to see if anyone knew who it was. No one did, but guessed based on the set times that it might have been Chris Lake. He is not an OWSLA artist and I’m not sure why he was there, but I was into it anyway. For such a small venue there was a solid production value to this show because as we all know, every fan of electronic music loooooves lights.

Dancing by yourself to house music can feel a little weird, and so I bounced back downstairs to spend some more time at the G-Nome Project, which was still going strong and still fun and funky.  Then I went back upstairs, took another peek at the set times, and confirmed that Chris Lake would be performing for far longer than I was prepared to stay at this event, it being a Sunday and all that jazz. So after some more time at Chris Lake, I called it quits.

I was somewhat hesitant to leave, still possibly convinced that Skrillex or Marshmello would show up late in the evening and blow everyone’s minds, but I was willing to take the risk on missing out (spoiler alert: no surprise sets happened!). So I went home, YouTubed the end-of-Oscars awkwardness, and went to bed.

I’m a little bummed that at an OWSLA showcase event I only managed to see one artist (and a non-OWSLA artist at that), but I still got to hit up not one, but TWO good shows, both with A+ dancing, and I didn’t have to sit through 4 hours of watching an award show for movies I’ve never seen. So it was a win, and a great way to start the week.

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It’s Weird That Hippies Rage to Bassnectar

bassnectar

This exact phrase has been sitting in the “Blog Posts” note in my phone for probably around a  year now (RIP, Basslights). Every time I open this note to review old ideas I see this and think, “Past self, that is so true. You are very wise.”

I’ve talked about Bassnectar a lot on this blog, although I’ve been kind of underwhelmed by the Nectar performances I’ve seen this year. Bassnectar, for the uninitiated, is a producer of what are often intense, hip hop-influenced, bass-heavy tracks. While he does have his more mellow moments, Nectar is an excellent go-to if you’re in the mood for some good ol’ fashioned head banging. His shows are high energy and high intensity and should come with a whiplash warning. Here are a few Bassnectar tracks to get you up to speed:

The crazy thing about Bassnectar is that, while obviously not true 100% of the time, a lot of his fans are just the most peaceful looking of hippies. We’re talking tie dye, dreadlocks, those funky pinecone necklaces (what are those about, anyway?), and crystals as far as the eye can see.

Let me tell you a story. When I was in high school, some friends and I decided to make a video for a French class assignment. We were reading Le Petit Prince at the time, and so for our video we decided to create an entirely new set of planets and act them out. My friend Arielle and I (this isn’t me just hanging out by myself, she is a real, live, non-me person who just happens to share my name) visited, among others, the Planet of the Spice Girls (“Si vous voulez être mon amoureux, vous devez être avec mes amis!”), and the Planet of 1969.  The Planet of 1969 involved us putting on some of not-me-Arielle’s mom’s vintage funky clothing, sitting on the ground, and aimlessly strumming on guitars while acting stoned and repeating “Paix” in a sing-songy voice to whichever friend we had roped into playing the part of the prince. It did not matter that we knew nothing about 1960’s hippie culture, being stoned, or playing the guitar.

The reason I share this story is that because visually, Bassnectar fans often remind me of the sleepy, amicable hippie vibe we were going for in our Le Petit Prince video (and also I wanted you to know how very cool I was in high school). While I realize it is quite unfair to judge a book by its cover, life isn’t always fair, or whatever. That’s why I don’t get paid to pet puppies all day.

So the point is, I see Bassnectar fans and I expect them to give me a sleepy smile and strum fake chords on their guitars and flash me the “Paix” sign, but then I go to a Bassnectar show and they are going absolutely HAM (that’s “Hard As a Motherfucker,” Mom). The dreadlocks go flying and it’s a total trip, a complete disconnect between expectation and reality. And while I stand by what I wrote in my Notes app, that it’s “weird,” it’s also one of the many things I love about music and this scene in particular. Always keeping you on your toes, full of surprises.

 

Concert Review: Big Gigantic & Bassnectar

This past Saturday, after 27 hours of fasting for Yom Kippur, I stuffed my face, changed my clothes, and hopped on NJ Transit to head back to New York. When my train pulled into Penn Station, I stopped just short of full out sprinting into Madison Square Garden and found my spot just as Big Gigantic was beginning their set.

I’m going to try and refrain from expressing the full extent of my love for Big G because I want to devote a full post to them later on. But I will say that this Colorado-based duo, whose music is EDM and funk and jazz and trap and disco and so many other things at the same time, brought their absolute best for their first performance in New York’s most iconic venue (though really, Big G pretty much always brings their best). Like many other artists, they play a mix of their own songs and some remixes, but somehow their song selection always represents exactly what you needed to hear right at that moment, even if you didn’t know it. I’ve seen Big Gigantic perform both as a headliner and, as they were for this show, an opener. So even those people who were at the Garden primarily to see Bassnectar were completely amped up by Big G’s performance because while not everyone may have known their music, the Boulder boys are major crowd-pleasers who play a little something for everyone. Among my favorite non-Big G songs that I heard from them:

– “Tell Me,” by RL Grime
– “Can’t Hold Us,” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
– “Bonfire,” by Knife Party
– “Swing,” by Savage
– “I Need A Dollar,” by Aloe Blacc

I’m particularly a fan of when Big G plays “Bonfire,” because a) I love Knife Party and b) when Dom, Big G’s producer and saxophonist, plays the sax over the song it is just so unbelievably rich and fantastic.

A major highlight of this set, and one that I hadn’t seen in any of their other shows I’ve been to, is when they played, “Shooting Stars,” and asked everyone to hold up their phones. It was magical.

The only unfortunate thing about the cell phone stars is that right before this song began, I had been texting with a nearby friend and trying to meet up, and I wrote her, “I’ll stand in the aisle and wave my cell phone around!” 30 seconds later there were thousands of cell phones in the air and she had responded with, “Oh shit.”

After Big G I made my rounds visiting with some other friends situated around the stadium, and then settled in in a different friend’s section for Bassnectar.

Bassnectar’s performance was 2 full hours of sensory overload. His stage setup involved massive screens, and even made use of the screen in the middle of the Garden that usually displays the basketball info. I got this sweet video of…a small child? (Don’t mind the terrible sound, my phone cannot handle recording bass, much to the probable chagrin of all the friends that I Snapchat concert videos to even though they sound like static garbage).

Visuals aside, Bassnectar’s music is full and loud and absolutely meant to be enjoyed in a massive stadium. I don’t think a single person was sitting down, nor should they have been. It’s so thick you can practically feel it.

You know how sometimes when you go running you manage to zone out for awhile, and you sort of come to a few minutes later and realize that, even though you’ve been running that whole time, you have no recollection of what you saw or heard or thought about? (I don’t, because I don’t run. But I used to, pre-knee injury). I found that this happened to me a few times during Bassnectar’s show. The vibrations from the bass are so strong that it almost lulls you into a kind of trance, and all of a sudden you think, “Oh, hey! What have I been doing for the last 5 minutes? Dancing? Cool.” I would imagine that if there wasn’t music blasting into your ears, the vibrating could actually lull you to sleep the same way that you can supposedly make a crying baby fall asleep by running the dryer and putting the baby on top of it (please do not try this at home, I don’t know anything about babies but I think I maybe I read this in a book once? Seems legit..ish).

The show ended at 1am and as people filtered out to their various afterparties, I think everyone was simultaneously energized and exhausted. It was certainly one for the books.