Saturday Night: Deadmau5 at Mansion
Ivon David Rojas
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Mansion, Miami Beach
Better than: Hip-hop Fridays at Mansion, maybe.
What's left to be said about Deadmau5 that hasn't already been said? Virtually unknown in 2007, the young Toronto prodigy skyrocketed to sudden international stardom and relentless hype by word of mouth, Internet exposure and blessings from commercial giants the likes of Pete Tong, Tiësto and Armin van Buuren. With countless global tour dates including headlining at Ultra this year, Joel Zimmerman has established the Deadmau5 moniker as a world-class dance institution, along with high-profile electro house collaborations BSOD with Steve Duda, and WTF? (with party dilettante Tommy Lee).
With genuinely nerdy technical genius and visionary zeal, Deadmau5 also continues to push the envelope on the medium by constantly staying on the cutting edge of technological innovation. His studio production skills are unparalleled, and he uses an experimental and mind-bending live setup. Recent interviews have quoted him as hailing the end of the DJ era and heralding a new paradigm of live electronic music. Then amidst all the hype there's that other little thing -- he's that good. He is capable of breathtakingly beautiful and epic productions, such as "I Remember" featuring heart-jerking vocals by Kaskade, and his signature moody masterpiece "Faxing Berlin." For fans there's definitely no denying that 2008 was the Year of the Mau5.
I had already seen his by now quasi-legendary debut at Mansion nightclub in April, and I remember it being a pretty stellar and ground-shaking performance. The dude is incredibly intense on stage, even when he's not wearing that huge freaky mouse head. He is by turns hypnotic and ecstatic as he sonically assaults crowds of often ten thousand people or more, and he sweatily and manically grooves his ass off as he plays. Somehow that's comforting. I think we're all sick of these stoic über-cool DJs that just stand there in frozen pose. If the artist doesn't cut loose and enjoys his own music, how can he expect the rest of us to do so?
For all his talent and winning artistic formula however, Mr. Zimmerman can put on a mercilessly harsh set that borders on being too inaccessibly experimental and self-indulgent to please a club crowd. Saturday's much-anticipated performance at Mansion came on the last leg of his world tour, and come 1 a.m. he got right down to it. The club was predictably over-crowded to the point of hindering the otherwise stupendously expensive and therefore pristine sound system at Mansion, but that didn't prevent the sheer loudness and brashness of his set. He kicked off with new electro-tech banger "Sometimes Things Get Complicated" and what ensued were a couple hours of aggressively loud and tedious percussive techno. Mostly nondescript new material with little reference to his most popular tracks.
After an hour of this harsh syncopated drivel, any notion of actually dancing was totally lost by the crowd. For a producer praised for his compelling melodic compositions, this stuff was just too harsh to listen to at such decibel levels, let alone dance to. The general feeling among fans, including myself, was that for all his greatness, Deadmau5 may have lost that humbling quality that distinguishes great club DJs, the ability to please a crowd by appealing to their need for accessible music with a proper clubbing groove. We dig his experimental boundary-pushing intentions as producer, but perhaps his hardcore experiments are best left in the Mau5 lab.
Personal Bias: As a fan, I reserve the right to criticize.
Random Detail: The Christmas Coca-Cola animated commercial looped on screens around the club -- pretty tacky. Deadamu5's visuals, incidentally, were kinda cool in a weird pornographic way, and he has promised a new mind-blowing visual element to his shows in 2009.
By the Way: Deadmau5 fans might do well in checking out Sébastien Léger's set at Mansion on January 10. This talented French producer picks up where Deadmau5 leaves off on progressive tech house.
-- Sean Levisman