Photo: Chris Proctor
On January 24, Steve Aoki’s DEADMEAT Tour, promoting his newest album, Wonderland, stopped in Salt Lake City at the Complex for a long night of some solid electronic dance tunes. Datsik and Dirtyphonics, label-mates on Aoki’s label, Dim Mak Records, were on the bill as well as Salt Lake City local, Aiden Chance.
I had never heard of Aiden Chance before this show, and I was curious to hear his set since he’s already shared the stage with the likes of Skrillex, Deadmau5 and now, Steve Aoki and Datsik, and I’m not even sure if he’s old enough to drive yet. His set lasted a little over an hour and, from what I could tell, was an original mix save for maybe ten minutes worth of remixes. His sound for this mix started out with a poppy synth-lead house feel and moved towards a more distorted club sound at the end with a touch of dubstep thrown in for good measure in the waning minutes. He played loud, which was good because I feel like most opening acts aren’t given enough volume to get the crowd going.
Dirtyphonics were up next and they blew my mind. This French four-piece brought a level of intensity from start to finish with an unforgiving drum and bass sound that I’ve only heard from the likes of Noisia. Dirtyphonics’ brand of drum n’ bass is dark and at the same time loud and in your face. Each member had a different interface with which to tweak the track, which gave their live set a multi-dimensional feel to it. I’ve never been one for dancing at shows, especially not electronic dance music, because I like to listen to the DJs’ sets and watch what they do. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say that their set got my feet tapping when I wasn’t running around trying to snap photos. The venue was starting to get packed, and looking out into the crowd from the stage I could see that just about everybody in the room was involved with what was coming out of the speakers. Dirtyphonics had hooked the crowd in and everybody loved it. The set lasted about an hour and a half and left me damn tired by the end of it, but collectively, the crowd was pumped and ready for Datsik.
By the time Datsik walked onto the stage, the venue was already packed and I could tell from the reaction from the crowd that just as many people showed up to see Datsik as were there for Aoki. There was a small stage production set up for his set, a simple “Datsik” signage lit up in front of the table from where he mixed. His set was slower in tempo than that of Dirtyphonics, but was even louder and just as intense. My favorite part of Datsik’s set was his mix of the track, “Swagga,” which sounded a bit remixed from the original mix with Excision. I can’t get as excited about Datsik’s take on dubstep compared to some other artists, but after seeing his live set, I’ve come to respect him as both a producer and a live DJ.
After Datsik finished his set, chants of “Aoki” began to surface and die from the crowd for about ten minutes. The black cover was pulled off Aoki’s stage production to reveal 12-inch lights arranged in a canoe shape in front of his turntables, which reminded me of a Mortal Kombat style Sub Zero mask.
Aoki’s set had a much more trance pop feel to it in contrast to the dark distortion of Datsik and Dirtyphonics. His set reminded me very much of the set A-Trak played about a year ago in the adjoining room at the Complex. It was full of fist-pumping dance floor anthems, trance synthesizer harmonics and smooth transitions. The tracks off Wonderland were well received by the crowd, as there were a number of easily-recognizable features from artists like Rivers Cuomo from Weezer on the track, “Earthquakey People,” Kid Cudi on “Cudi the Kid,” and recent pop sensations, LMFAO on “Livin’ My Love.” Aoki’s set more or less followed the nature of his music, party rock anthems accompanied by stage dives, spraying champagne and standing on the table with his hands in the air. This is certainly music you can dance to, but Aoki has so much fame and credibility that he just doesn’t need to try anymore, which can make the set a little dull at times. I felt much more engaged with the music when Dirtyphonics were behind their turntables actively crafting tracks in real time. I guess once you pay your dues and start your own label, you’re allowed to mess around a little more on stage than others.
Aoki ended his set the same way he is doing with every venue he plays on this tour, by joining the crowd and facing the stage for a photo with Datsik and the openers for a “group photo,” which can all be found on deadmeattour.com.