Check out photos from the RedBull Thre3style event in our slideshow.
Red Bull Thre3style Massive feat. A-Trak, Toy Selectah & RL Grime Stereo Live December 21, 2012
Right around the time that EDM became the catchall phrase for any and all dance tracks, "DJ" became the label for anyone who performed dance music. No longer were DJs the people behind the turntables scratching up a storm; anyone with a laptop and a midi controller was suddenly a party-rocker, the latest in a line of performers reaching back to Grand Wizzard Theodore.
And that's OK. Words, like music, evolve. The technology may change, but the core remains the same: excite a crowd using a blend of good songs and good technique.
That said, it's always nice to see DJs that do more than just press a few buttons. Red Bull's Thre3style Massive was a celebration of DJs as more than just human iTunes playlists; these were DJs bringing serious skills to the table.
It was only appropriate, then, that the show's headliner A-Trak was a combination of the best of both worlds: A technical wizard who has worked with some of hip-hop's finest and now made the successful jump to the electro-house sounds that are taking over all music.
More than just a celebration of the DJ, Friday night's show was an interesting snapshot of what the world of dance music is like at the end of 2012 and what it may become.
RL Grime's set, a heavy and steady combination of southern hip hop and trap music, was a glimpse of where EDM may be headed over the next year. Club kids and hip hop heads alike seem to be drawn to it and it hits the same way dubstep does but without all the chaos.
Toy Selectah's set, a mix of current EDM trends with traditional Mexican/Latino beats, was a potential glimpse of EDM's future further down the line. It's a sound that gets people dancing once they wrap their heads around it. They may not be ready for it now, but it's not difficult to imagine Mexican DJs refining it into chart gold over the next few years. [See an interview with Toy Selectah a little later on today -- ed.]
As for A-Trak, it almost seems unfair that he's so talented. It's more than just technical abilities with a pair of turntables; while his ability to scratch and build a routine is impressive, his ability to drop the right song at the right time to turn up the crowd is just ridiculous.
With only an hour to claim, A-Trak had more of a festival set than the standard DJ headlining performance and budgeted his time wisely. While his ability to scratch is still at a championship level and his routines are flawless, A-Trak's most impressive skill is song selection. He stacked his set to the brim with solid tracks guaranteed to bring the house down.
While the electro-house tracks he banged out at the beginning and end of his set were strong, things really took off during the extended rap section that made up the middle of his performance. Whether it was a look at Atlanta hip hop or a trip through the history of the genre, the crowd ate up everything he served them eagerly.
By the time his hour was up, the crowd had been treated to a display of the technical skills that made A-Trak a competitive DJ champion years ago and a collection of remixes that have made him one of the biggest names in EDM right now. While they loved it, many felt that it was over too soon.
So while the world may not have ended on December 21, the show did, much to the disappointment of the crowd. As he stood at the side of the stage, A-Trak was treated to one of the loudest and most sincere "one more song" chants this blogger has ever heard.
While labels and genres may evolve, there is one simple truth when it comes to concerts: When the venue turns on the lights, it's time to go home.
Personal Bias: "The Night Out (A-Trak vs Martin Rework)" was my favorite song of 2012.
The Crowd: Club kids and hip-hop fans standing side by side as equals, all wearing more clothing than a typical Stereo Live crowd.
Random Notebook Dump No. 1: The show opened with the three finalists from Red Bull's Thre3style competition. While world champ Four Color Zack's set was at times sublime, I was more impressed with DJ Drummer's set, in which he played an inhuman and almost bewildering number of tracks.
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Random Notebook Dump No. 2: Bun B was in the building, which brings up the question: At which venues in town has he not played, and how quickly can we rectify this?