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Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Rusko And Paper Diamond, Madison Square Garden, Saturday, October 4th, 2014, Reviewed

Bassnectar At MSG, October 2014

Bassnectar At MSG, October 2014

Electronic Dance Music fans are not the children of disco, they are the grandchildren of hippies from the late 1960s: a colorful, drug enhanced subculture of soundscapes and movements. Light shows and late nights. Middle class mainstream turned left. This is how America embraces its young, it dresses them up in cultural neutrality and throws them to the bass.It makes music scenes out of sound frequencies. And at a well attended rave at the citadel of live music, Madison Square Garden, it embraced and embraced hard four DJs representing house, dubstep, heavy sampling mixed with live music, and a House master with his hand in most of the above.

The audience are young and beautiful, apolitical, extremely middle class, very white, and very much ready to see dance as both an escape and an entrance in … and they can’t dance. Paper Diamond was correct when he played “Swing Your Hips” because that is exactly what is done, compared to disco, compared to Tony Manero, these guys don’t cut it. They are  more like tripping out in muddy fields of Woodstock twirling and moving, till the bass gets dropped when everything becomes a rhythmic charge. A face melt, adrenaline, endorphin rush of excitement but not great dancing.

The four performers (if that’s the word) were all of the Skrillex as opposed to Deadmau5 school of sampling and they are all pros. Woody Fuller first covered headliner Bassnectar for us in 2010 (read in here) and Lorin has only improved with time. This is the mainstream of EDM sure, but that just mean his current album  Noise Vs Beauty is his best, a deep exploration of modern house veering into Trance. The Boulder, Colorado duo Big Gigantic are Bassnectar’s equal in popularity. The buzz at MSG was of around equal proportions, people were more than psyched for a viewing of the next big thing who mix live  with recorded elements. Both of these are House Music mavens, but Londoner Rosco performs dubstep all the way and Paper Diamond is old school heavy duty remixing of hits.

I am so sick of going to raves at MSG and not being able to get to my seat because of people dancing that I made a conscious effort to arrive early and joined the throngs trying to get in while MSG performed a ridiculous patdown of people entering the arena, given the limited amount of clothes many audience members were wearing, it seemed like a waste of time to me and it seemed to me the security guards hearts weren’t into it. Before the concert I received this email:

Please be advised that, at the request of the artist, guests holding tickets for the Bassnectar concert performance scheduled to take place at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, October 4, 2014 at 8:00 pm will be patted down upon entering the arena. Pursuant to Madison Square Garden policy, patrons may not enter the venue with items such as weapons, drugs and other illegal substances. For a list of those items, please refer to website. In addition, for this event, you will not be permitted entry with any of the following items:

Glass containers of any kind
Cigarette packages, tampons, packs of gum, chapstick/lip gloss (except if they are sealed)
Electronic or vapor cigarettes
Flammable products or materials and sprays
Drug paraphernalia
Water guns, water balloons, and/or any other kind of water projectile
Glow sticks
Any item that can be used as a means to disturb the peace, endanger the safety of the crowd, and/or inflict damage to people and goods

By purchasing a ticket, you agree to be subject to a pat-down, including emptying your pockets and bags and possibly removing your shoes.

This is for the safety of all guests and in order for everyone to enjoy the concert. We look forward to your continued patronage of Madison Square Garden and Ticketmaster

Wow, you can’t take vitamins into MSG? News to me. Anyway, they can’t bust our music and I have a feeling anybody who wanted to bring in drugs, though not squirt guns, would have no problem.  Perhaps the lack of paraphernalia explains the slightly subdued audience. The General Admission floor was completely sold out, but compared to the insane vibe at Armin van Buuren’s State Of Trance gig here last year, this was not on that level.

Paper Diamond aka Alexander Botwin records for Pretty Lights now and his 45 minute was a fine mix of originals and remixes culminating in a sonic blast through “Can I Get A…”. For the last ten minutes Paper Diamond played a song he had written the day before and while if he claimed composed, well, it is a composition and it is brittle and soundchannel of subatomic particles that sort of do their job. But song? A sampling of Calvin Harris’s “Summer” was song…

If Paper Diamond doesn’t write songs, what the hell does Rusko do? All dubstep all the time, the segues so subtle it feels like one long track and the songs when they appear are very deep into the set. This is real EDM stuff, it is built for dance and for drugs, the bass is high frequency, songs are non existent and the popular DJ doesn’t even play his awesome “Cockney Thug”. He barely acknowledges the audience but Rusko has nice moves  as he manipulates high tempo bass lines that progress ever forward. But then for the penultimate song  Rusko drops an excellent remix of DMX’s “Party Up (In Here)” and reminds you he got here as a producer among other things. At the end of his set, Rusko claims nothing he played was written after 2010, which explains a lot.

Big Gigantic has  Saxophone Producer Dominic Lalli playing Jack to drummer  Jeremy Salken’s Meg, in an  odd, not entirely successful mix and match. I understand the buzz and I embrace it as well to a degree, but it seems a little redundant to put a live drummer in front of an hour of manufactured beats. Big Gigantic are considered a major live act and I guess they are just that when compared to their peers but the light show and hi def visual flair and sometimes saxophone playing is not quite enough to make them a thrilling live act. Still, it was a third good set in a row. Opening with the five note “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” and continuing through some hip swaying throw downs, they rolled out  their own hits like “Touch The Sky” and “The Night Is Young”. It was a fun, very competent hour.

By now it is 11pm and inhibitions are in shorter supply than the size of the hot pants bearing the legend “Roll Your Weed Here” on their tushes on those two girls. I didn’t know whether to look or avert my eyes so I looked, and the bright neon, sexy boa-y glittery stuff was all over the place. these kids looked hot and sexy and flexible. I’ve always enjoyed the affection between girls, it is completely unlike broromance, the girls  hold hands and hug and dance close, it is innocent in its own way. And the boys dance with the girls and there is a certain tension in the room enhanced by deep bass and shallow moves.

But white boys rule EDM. There are few black fans, few black DJs, few women DJs, this is Eurotrash gone Yankee middle to upper middle class rich kids weather. It is one reason why it lacks the authentic grit of disco, it isn’t blue collar. Denver and Las Vegas (and Copenhagen) is ground zero for this stuff and because it is a free for all it travels around the world in an instance. That’s why Armin Van Buueren has 16 million listeners to any one of his gigs.

Bassnectar is a star in this world. He isn’t Skrillex or Avicii but he is getting there. Bassnectar is at that place where he is entering the first tier of House music producers. The flawless Noise Vs Beauty is the reason we are (or at least I am) here today  and Lorin Ashton gave a stellar performance, or at least the hour I caught (I left past midnight and it was still going strong). Bassnectar breaks his songs into aphorisms, one liners, “hit the ground”, “I can be a freak every day every week”, “wild style method”, “bazooka bass so heavy”.  The latter off the evening’s best moment, a terrific “Lost In The Crowd” so melodic it sounds like Trance.

So then I left the kids to it. There is so much I admire about this scene and not least is it’s apolitical. The song and verse goes freedom requires endless vigilance but if that’s the case, why bother? What sort of freedom is that? Freedom is the freedom to dress weird and be sexy, take molly and dance all night to heavily processed beats. That’s it. That’s what makes life worth living when you’ve just hit 21 and that’s what Bassnectar offer.

Grade: B

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