I always get a little nervous when I go to shows at Urban Lounge, especially during a weekday. I’m not so much nervous for reasons that pertain to myself, rather, I feel nervous for the performers, as some folks would be reluctant to come to a DJ-only set during the week.
About 15 minutes after the show had officially began, I found a booth all to myself— a dark corner to lurk in for the time being—while a small ring of people begin to build around the dance floor and the night’s first act, Chase One Two, mixes away. People are chatting loudly, sipping their pints and craft bottles. Some are moving to and fro in their seats to the music, while others bob their head to the drum and bass of the current cut. “This is the b-side to Another One Bites The Dust,” Chase One Two says into the mic, which is answered with a small round of “woos.” The mix is pretty rad though; the Queen b-side is blended with a funky rhythm that eventually transitioned into MIA’s “Paper Planes,” which was met with a more whole-hearted bout of “woos” from the crowd, which had finally started to grow. This quelled my fears that Nightmares On Wax would be playing to an empty room, and that he would ultimately decide that Salt Lake not only sucked, but that he would also never come back.
It was about 45 minutes into this first set that the movers and shakers finally decided that it was time to dance. A small group, one man and two women, set to cutting a rug on the far side of the room, stage left. Their sprinkler-inspired dance moves and shuffling feet rallied another troop of show-goers to finally make their way to the dance floor. Someone had finally gotten the fog machine to operate and the room was quickly filled with a thick haze. Blue lights that engulfed the stage bled through the fog into the dance floor, consuming the dancers in an eerie, indigo glow.
It was at this time a girl next to me began furiously shaking her ass to a kicked up version of Prince’s “Controversy,” I decided to venture out into the crowd, which had grown quickly and filled the space within Urban. I bobbed and weaved my way through people, dodging the occasional low-swinging dreadlock or wild case of “ratchet hands” while electronic music poured through the speakers. I had made it to the opposite side of the room and settled in when the Chase One Two quickly ended his set. I was a tad bummed, but only because I had wanted to see what madness this side of the room could offer. I suppose I could wait for the next set.
It was about 10:30 p.m. and I found myself outside, on the back patio, when I heard the next set kick off, commanded by Crisis Wright, inside the venue. The sounds of Marvin Gay pleading “Let’s get it on” resonated to where I stood. I quickly said my goodbyes and made my way back into the fray. This set had gone from funk to pop by the time I found myself intermingled with the concert’s flock. The King of Pop himself had the now jam-packed dance floor moving with incredible flow, controlled, carefully of course, by the man behind the booth on stage. Looking around I could see that people were talking, dancing, taking sips of their drinks and laughing. It was a feel good time, almost like an impromptu party being held at someone’s home—everyone was enjoying the atmosphere. Moving around the perimeter of the stage and dance floor I saw several improvised dance-offs occur, with resounding cheers and praise from those who looked on. Crisis was working these people into a frenzy and had saved an especially saucy saxophone track for the end of his selection of tunes. People were cheering when he took a break to say, “Y’all ready to see Nightmares On Wax?” which about pushed the mob over their limits—their cheers turned to screams, whistles and proclamations of “FUCK YEAH.”
Shortly after Crisis Wright brought his music to a lurching stop, a man with a backpack made his way to the stage and quickly set about unpacking gear and rigging it up. The lighting quickly changed from familiar blue to a deep magenta, illuminating this man, George Evelyn, popularly know as Nightmares On Wax. The crowd watched him intently, cheering as he pulled his laptop and a few vinyl records from his bag, anticipating the show that lie ahead of them. Before he begins, Evelyn grabs a microphone and begins asking the crowd, in his accent from across the pond, “Good evening Salt Lake, what are you all doing here?” They simply cheer and jump up and down as he paces back and forth on the stage. “You’re here to feel good, because you know what? It’s okay, to feel good,” he says before pulling on his headphones and creating the beginnings of a song.
The people of Urban Lounge are fixated on the man in front of them. Snare and bass kick in off-time fashion, no one can seem to catch his beat with their feet or hips, when suddenly heavy dub-infused electronic bass blares from the black boxes positioned next to Evelyn. A slow, churning island beat has the crowd moving with enthusiasm. Bouncy cello strings and deep trumpets have them flailing and moving as one giant beast.
From this point on, they were slaves to Evelyn’s musical workings. Watching from the back, I could see him orchestrating the mass with not only his music but also with his hands and gestures. He would make a sweeping motion with his arm and the crowd would move with it. If he decided that people needed to jump around he would change his sound for a proper fit and begin jumping around himself. It was amazing to watch Evelyn manipulate everyone with tempo and instrument. He would bring everyone to near exhaustion with pounding drums and lull them from near collapse with beautiful workings of technical sound-smithing, incorporating slow tracks with things like piano or violin. Evelyn’s grasp of music could only be described as intimidating.
As the night stretches on, so does the Nightmare On Wax set. Evelyn is dug in for the long haul behind his booth and continues to dish out piece after piece, without relent. Around 12:30 a.m. is when those who had work in the morning decided that maybe it was time to go, and that they would not be catching the end of this show. The outer reaches of the bar had become sparsely populated but still, a large group remained huddled on the dance floor, once again bathed in blue light and surrounded by a thick cloud of atomized propylene glycol.
The show actually went on for another hour after that and by that time, the crowd eventually dwindled and left only those glassy eyed veterans, hardened by many hours of live performance experience. Evelyn, however, never showed any sign of slowing down, as his set had remained solid through its entirety, leaving Urban Lounge in a wake of electronic bliss and technical prowess.