When I think of an artist that has sold out six nights at a New York City venue, the first thing that comes to mind is the Allman Brothers performing at the Beacon year in and year out (though The National will take a stab at that later this year). I would not have thought this concept would spread to the electronic dance music (EDM) scene, but Canada’s Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) rose to the challenge and commanded mighty audiences six nights in a row at the Roseland Ballroom (Oct 4 – 9 2011). For that feat, surpassing Rage Against the Machine’s five nights in 1996, Roseland presented the DJ/producer an award.
Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise since the ear-to-ear grin mousehead that Deadmau5 wears is practically emblematic of electronic music these days. To demonstrate Deadmau5’s reach, the page for a contest to design a new mau5head reached over 15 million people—the winning design by Lance Thackeray was selected as the headgear. The mau5 brand reaches out to a younger crowd, so Roseland allowed people aged 16+ to attend the weeknight performances. Out on night three of the run, it seemed most safe for me to squirrel away on the 21+ balcony or the side area to avoid being overrun by these younger mau5s (is that what they are called)?) bopping away while wearing their neon mouse-eared head bands.
While Deadmau5 worked the mixers I wouldn’t have been surprised if his bouldery stage setup, with its crags jutting upward put him at the center of a base, had instead been a skull, like Dr. Wily’s castle, with all the video game references that popped up on the graphics including images of a mau5 playing with Super Mario or set as a character in Animal Crossing. Otherwise the massive setup of projection screens, strobes and lights seemed second only to the illustrious Daft Punk pyramid from a few years back.
But the visuals were only half of the experiment—the music and sound also stimulated the crowd to dance. The pulsations of “Some Chords” could have laid waste to the audience alone, but snippets of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” were thrown into the mix to help people survive. Some other un-mau5 artists I thought I heard included Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx but for the most part, it was mostly Deadmau5 tunes. The oscillating sounds of “Cthulhu Sleeps” awakened a cthulhu (think of a more evil kraken), whose tentacles rose up on screen to which the crowd waved along with.
Midway through the set, the vocal track “Raise Your Weapon” was the cue for singer Sofia Toufa to appear. Breaking into the track “Sofi Needs a Ladder”, Sofi’s stage presence brought organic rock elements to the production. As she strutted across the stage, Deadmau5 came down from his decks to scope out the scene. In return for letting her squeeze his eyeballs, Deadmau5 placed a hat on Sofi. She beckoned the audience to “give it up” which they eagerly did on “One Trick Pony” before she left the stage. The audience did not need any encouragement.
Deadmau5 rounded out the evening sans head, to an audience that never seemed to need a break. He went into “FML” before dropping his track “I Remember” co-produced with Kaskade. Further into the mix, “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” had the crowd hollering along with the vocals. Finally around one a.m., Deadmau5 had to put the crowd to rest, the night had to come to a close. The big beats gave way to the soft, piano-driven melody intro of “Strobe” which gave the audience a bit of a cool down. Unrelenting, the audience screamed for more even as Deadmau5 took his bows.
Outside the venue, with neon bands and bracelets still aglow, the energized young crowd spilled out. “The New Rave Generation” (as Spin magazine puts it) are the reason electronic music is seeing resurgence. Deadmau5 is heads above the new cohort of electronic producers in teaching these youngsters the way.
Where Are My Keys
Reward Is Cheese
To Play Us Out
Some Chords (w/ Tiny Dancer [Elton John])
HR 8938 Cephei
Raise Your Weapon (Noisia Remix)
Sofi Needs a Ladder
One Trick Pony
FML / I Remember
Moar Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff
Get in the Cart, Pig