Nero (DJ Set) @ Park City Live 01.17 with DJ Zen Freeman

Posted January 24, 2013 in

Nero @ Park City Live. Photo: Michael Reilly/XS
Sundance 2013 settled over Park City like our lovely inversion; Love it or hate it, it’ll be over before you know it. For the locals among us, one of the best things about the festival is the crowd of people that populates our chilly, mid-January existence. Sundance is perfect people watching, best partaken in the gaudy parties and concerts that tend to cater to warm weather visitors, aka, girls wearing bikinis in frigid Utah temperatures. This year’s opening night brought acclaimed electronic duo Nero to Park City for a pricey, open to the public, sold-out, classic Sundance dance party.

Nero, the duo of twenty-something North Londoners Dan Stephens and Joe Ray, have been making dubstep, drum and bass in England since 2004, and are riding the current wave of Americana house interest in the wake of Skrillex, Deadmau5 and “brostep.” My interest with Nero was sparked by the video for their song “Promises,” which depicts a dystopian cyber future propelled by a great electro-pop tune. My further listening followed diverging branches of Nero’s talents: similar future pop tunes, dubstep remixes and more traditional house tracks. Though they’ve recruited British singer Alana Watson for their debut album, 2011’s Welcome Reality, which has a serious ’90s europop vibe, the night was billed as a DJ set.

A mob of people gathered around Park City Live, which is in the middle of Main Street next to O’Shucks. A Facebook page described the event as “Wynn Las Vegas takes over Park City Live... XS Las Vegas, Encore Beach Club & Surrender Nightclub ALL UNDER ONE ROOF!” The four names listed are renowned Vegas nightclubs that took over the space for the duration of the festival. To my ears, this usually means overpriced drinks and nearly naked heterosexuals. When we finally entered, my awful generalizing all came true. There were girls in ugly neon fetish-wear dancing on tables (outfits provided by clothing company LongHairDontCare, seriously) and large sections of the floor roped off for people who paid more money than you. Opening DJ Zen Freeman was already spinning a mix of house, dubstep and top 40 behind a large booth to a crowd of blinder shaded, hoodied ravers and prowling Jersey Shore acolytes. At one point, he played Roxy Music's "Love is the Drug" and a nicely remixed version of Bronski Beat's "Why?" We left our coats with the surprisingly reasonably priced coat check and set off naively to find some reasonably priced drinks. They were nowhere to be found. One of the misfortunes of entertaining so many visitors during Sundance is the out-of-town prices they invariably bring along. Two meager cocktails (whiskey/coke, vodka/red bull) dispersed our cash more than our sobriety, a serious dilemma when facing a brostep rave without anything harder.

Sometime well after midnight, Nero took the stage. Panels toward the back of the stage lit up with an LED display, as well as the DJ booth that held Freeman. Only one of Nero’s dudes took the stage to play out nearly two hours of dubstep and electronics. Without Watson, the performance was something like half instrumental electronics and half pop radio DJ set. They played a number of originals from Welcome Reality alongside heavy dubstep reworkings of others people's tunes. The crowd, whatever they were on, was up for dancing the entire set, which usually makes or breaks this kind of show. People closest to the stage had been solidly dancing since the doors had opened and they didn't slow down for Nero. The LED #post-internet stage visuals and glowing Styrofoam light sticks tossed out from the stage made the whole thing a glitzy affair. Add waitresses carrying flaming magnums of champagne and welcome to the brorave. About forty minutes into it, they started busting out a flurry of radio pop remixes, weaving Lil Wayne, Calvin Harris, and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” Generalizations aside, the night was fun and weird, and I got to take one of those fun glow sticks home to commemorate another goofy Sundance experience.
Nero @ Park City Live. Photo: Michael Reilly/XS Nero @ Park City Live. Photo: Michael Reilly/XS