A-Trak @ Complex 05.10

Posted May 16, 2011 in
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The Complex
with Kid Sister, Gaslamp Killer, Flash and Flare

Alain Macklovich a.k.a. A-Trak has been a busy man. One month ago, he left Coachella after playing a wild set with Duck Sauce mate Armand Van Helden and met up with Kid Sister and the Gaslamp Killer to kick off the Magic 8 Ball Tour. Serving partially as a pretext for A-Trak’s most current stage design, the tour spanned south from coast to coast twice, ending up in Salt Lake City last Tuesday. 
First on the bill to warm up the crowd was SLC’s very own DJ Flash & Flare, adding “Opened for world-renowned DJ” to his impressive resume after recently winning CWMA’s DJ spin-off. Flash & Flare spun up the wheels of steel, sampling old school hip-hop tracks and some more progressive house beats that set a perfect groove for the night. 

After Flash & Flare said his goodbyes, a man with a shoulder-length lion’s mane and the most solid handlebar mustache you’ve ever seen stepped on stage and introduced himself as The Gaslamp Killer– the one who was “going to warm your little black hearts”. Based out of Los Angeles and originally from San Diego, Gaslamp was crude and untreated, conducting every little scratch, beep, and sample with a dance or coarse facial expression. There was no stage production or backdrop, and not much of a lightshow, but the way he narrated his sound with movement made you want to just stop and watch him. He mixed a wide spectrum of sounds reaching across the boundaries of hip-hop, funk, rock and psychedelia, creating a sound that was both sadistic and explorative. There were a few instances where the timing of his mixing sounded a bit off, but it was essentially irrelevant when one considers how technical his mixes were and how damn entertaining he was from start to finish.

When electro-fused rapper Kid Sister took the stage, her explosive, unapologetic performance got essentially everyone in the venue off the wall and into their dancing shoes. Unfortunately, due to her commercial success, it was also the point in the night where the douchebags and sluts took to the floor, bumping and grinding their sexual insecurities all over each other. As soon as her live-set mix of “Gucci Rag Top” came on the turntables I felt as if I had been jolted out of my reality and put in the dead center of an episode of the Jersey Shore. It was only after a technical difficulty causing the performance to screech to a halt that I was able to come to my senses again. Kid Sister, bless her heart, made a valid attempt at an a cappella performance, but eventually had to wait for the sound engineers to get the PA back online. Having endured a prolonged and slightly awkward hiatus, the irreverent rapper did an impeccable job of re-establishing the energy of the crowd and finishing out her performance in style.

Only a couple of minutes after Kid Sister took her bow, with no more than a smile and a wave, world-famous DJ and producer A-Trak stepped onto the stage. Along with Kanye West (whom he’s worked with closely on a number of recent projects) and Montreal-based design company Moment Factory, A-Trak designed the stage production with which he was touring. He recently spoke with Hypetrak concerning this new setup, saying “All the bigger names amongst DJs and producers are kind of racing to come up with their own stage shows…what I think what’s missing sometimes is sort of an underlying significance… the simple idea of people to being able to say ‘A-Trak had this gigantic A’ was really important”. The “A” itself has wood texture and neon framework that lights up in a vibrant white at the command of five gold buttons on his table and a series of knobs and sliders.

Beginning his set with a remix off his Infinity +1 mixtape, A-Trak immediately had the crowd—which was unusually small for a DJ of this caliber—in a rave. His mixes were fast-paced and in your face; and his transitions were seamless. With more than a decade of playing live sets under his belt, it was evident that I was in the presence of a true professional. There were a few instances when he started scratching and mixing with such technicality that I had to walk to the side of the stage just to see if he was really doing it live. Not only was he doing it live, but he had a smile on his face the entire time and he never broke a sweat. He made an incredibly difficult skill look easy, periodically scanning the crowd, taking a sip from his Dos Equis, nodding at who I assume were the tour managers hanging out in the background, and returning to his tables. The finale came during one of his mind-blowing scratch fits, with smoke machines, strobe lights and his “A” in full effect. He brought the energy of the crowd to an all-time high, and with a perfectly timed decrescendo, that was it. The music cut, and as he began to walk off the stage, he turned, raised two fingers into the air in salute of the crowd who had just shared in 
his musical journey, and he was gone.

The lights came on in the venue, and ears ringing, I hastily made my way to the merch table, picked up a copy of Gaslamp and A-Trak’s vinyl promos and went on my way.