John Digweed Stereo Live April 12, 2013
Last Friday night, I left an EDM show feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and simply happy. This was because I had been brought back to a musical place I hadn't been in years, a place where I was discovering something I loved for the first time.
Seeing John Digweed was like teleporting back to 1996, a time where my friends and I would hop the city bus and ride on down to First Avenue for the Minneapolis club's Sunday Night Dance Party (Houstonians might remember it from Purple Rain... I come from the land where you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka).
We would don our JNCO jeans, Adidas Shelltoes, and baby tees to go dance. For hours, without gimmicks, bullshit, and pretense... we just danced. Hearing Digweed's seamless set sent me back to a time that me, my friends, and techno were all coming of age.
If you aren't familiar with John Digweed, chances are you might be and just don't know it. He has been spinning progressive house since the early '90s under his own name as well as his Bedrock alias (along with Nick Muir). His music was featured in 1996's Trainspotting in addition to other movies and television shows.
In 2001, DJ Magazine voted him the No. 1 DJ in the world. He has influenced a generation of music. The man is a master, and this is clear when you watch him work.
Nothing about Digweed's set Friday seemed remotely laborious. He hit his stride immediately, spinning a housey-jungley-trancey set filled with a decade's worth of subtle samples, from a Chemical Bros. remix of XTC, to Tel Aviv techno darling Chaim.
Digweed needs no tricks or stunts to make for a great EDM show, which is rare these days. There were no Britney samples, no go-go dancers, no viral-video references, just amazing techno.
I am not sure if this is maybe why the crowd seemed to take forever to get into the show. For Digweed's effortless ease, the crowd was the opposite: on the floor, it felt like we were climbing an impossibly high mountain.
The night started off very slow, to no fault of openers Sean Carnahan and Surain. Carnahan's set was low-key, but should have served its purpose of hyping up the crowd, had they been there (although Carnahan definitely needs some better graphics; they remind me of a Windows 97 screensaver).
Surain's set was a little more bassy, and the two openers played well off one another, playing four sets total, switching off every 30 minutes or so. Unfortunately for the openers, most of the crowd didn't get to the show until right around when Digweed started (around 12:20), and those who did hung outside smoking cigs and buying fake geek glasses from the vendor.
Right before Digweed started, the screen blinked the word "HOUSTON." There was nary a clap. Every other city I have been to, this would have solicited a vibrant roar. Again, it blinks. It goes unnoticed. Hype attempt denied. The atmosphere was much more of a club than a show.
Once Digweed started spinning, the crowd finally started to get a bit hyphy. He'd drop a track, and they'd be really into it... for about 45 seconds. Then people just stood there. No dancing. And up the mountain we climbed...
At 1:45 a.m., everyone was finally reflecting Digweed's energy. Dancing. Cheering. Yes, some fist-pumping. I started to realize that '90s is the new retro. I kept hearing people saying how much they love jungle.
This is what I was waiting for. The energy was palpable. I could see everyone around me realizing how amazing it was; this is why they loved techno in the first place! Digweed had the crowd. We are at the apex, and DAMN it felt good.
And there we all stayed, as one mass of techno-loving club kids at heart, for the rest of the show. Digweed played until 3 a.m., and Stereo Live was packed until the very end of the set. They came to see him, and nothing else. And that is exactly what they did.
Personal Bias: Amazing techno without gimmicks. Timeless set, seamless execution.
The Crowd: Completely nondescript: Old men with escorts, musclegays, people who just got off work, Tex-Mex pompadour club kids, hipsters, body-building females, etc... The most diverse and non-overtly EDM-y crowd I've ever seen. Which is great.
Overheard In the Crowd: Two guys giving each other a quick dance lesson during Carnahan's set. Very cute.
Random Notebook Dump: There was a real-live cowboy who was full-out rave dancing. This was not for show. This was not a costume. This was just a REAL LIVE COWBOY rave dancing. It was AWESOME.