Friday Night: Deadmau5 At Verizon Wireless Theater

Check out more photos of Friday night's Mauskateers.

Deadmau5, Excision, Tommy Lee & DJ Aero, Grrl Parts Verizon Wireless Theater September 16th, 2011

The last few times you've heard from this member of Rocks Off, we've brought you reports from major electronic and dance music gigs happening in Houston. It's only been in the very recent past that Space City has been able to attract artists from this corner of the music world, but it's hard to ignore the scene when high-profile acts like Moby visit, much less cult figures like Ramadan Man. It doesn't hurt that homegrown collectives like Gritsy keep putting together larger and larger events of their own.

When our own Rocks Off Jr. visited Identity Fest just last month and came away with a begrudging respect (and greater knowledge base) for electronic music, we knew it was time to cover a show once again. Why we chose to brave the sold-out teen and twentysomething crowd at Verizon Friday for Deadmau5 and friends, we'll never know, but the sights and sounds from night certainly created plenty of conversational fodder for the rest of our weekend.

Musically and stylistically, it was if we had attended two completely separate events. The two touring openers paled in depth, talent level, and straight-up production value compared to Deadmau5. Unfortunately, we missed the early opening set from H-Town's own Grrl Parts, so we have no way of verifying what sort of stage was set for Tommy Lee & DJ Aero or Excision.

Suffice to say the first two hours of the night led us to craft this definition of Brostep: bass-heavy club music for the ADD generation, complete with ironically discordant images flashing upon two video screen and epilepsy-causing lighting effects that rarely seemed in sync with the music.

For these three gentlemen, it was all about getting from one clichéd bass drop to the next. How they chose to bridge that gap was immaterial, because the samples, patches, and sound effects were strung together with very little flow. As long as the tempos were upbeat and the crowd kept continually hyped up, there was sadly no nuance or subtlety to these live sets.

Sure, they flirted with house, jungle, and a smattering of two-step, but only for brief flashes before returning to generic four-on-the-floor bangers slapped together in 90-second segments before jumping to the next seizure-inducing sound bite. To paraphrase our photographer, Excision's set looked and sounded like someone was trying to defrag a hard drive on Ecstasy.

All of this changed when Deadmau5 hit the stage. Not only did the crowd energy skyrocket from simmering expectancy to the sort of throaty roar reserved for your standard musical demigod, but the quality of the music, lighting, and video production work leapt from that of a late-'90s Konami game on your old N64 to that of a major Hollywood big-budget movie. Seriously, the stage setup reminded Atermath of the DJ booth Daft Punk would have used in Tron: Legacy, if it hadn't been a Disney movie.

Deadmau5 deftly kept the crowd entertained with his illuminated mouse head, including a bit where the mouse's digital mouth starting "singing" along with a sample of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." Skittering beats were complemented with actual grooves culled from various techno schools like drum-and-bass, garage, trance and classic house. The second half of the set did begin with the clamorous sounds of brostep, as in over-the-top bass thuds and tinny treble bleeps cobbled together with no sense of delicacy or distinction.

It was a much better set that we anticipated. The guy certainly has his detractors in certain segments of the electronic music world, specifically amongst nerdy dubstep aficionados and older techno fans who think that Deadmau5 isn't anything more than a very talented copycat artist who's borrowed heavily from his influences.

Nevertheless, we felt that the show was a rousing success, in that the headlining artist put on an engaging and entertaining two-hour block of music, and Houston was able to show that same popular musician that we could pack out a sizable venue for an electronic-music event and do so in relative style.

To be honest, we were rather proud of the crowd. Despite the unholy trinity of neon-clad older rave kids, Washington Avenue bros (and the women who tolerate them), and teenagers dressed like it was prom, the crowd was in great spirits.

As the night stretched onward, the exuberant feelings and elated moods only intensified, as everyone was interested in having a good time and enjoying music that they liked. Thus, we applaud both Deadmau5 and his fans for this enjoyable evening, despite the less-than-stellar introduction from the guy's touring partners.

Personal Bias: We felt really old, improperly attired, and nerdy. We don't like glowsticks.

The Crowd: Lots of teenagers, lots of young college-aged kids, and lots of 25- to 30-year-olds in popped collars and over-priced jeans, or just skanky club attire in general.

Overheard In the Crowd: N/A. The place was really loud. We had to yell in the ear of our photographer just to trade snarky barbs about the crowd and the video screens during Excision's set.

Random Notebook Dump: Any time that you need to use have both a vocal sample and your video screens scream out, "Bass Cannon!" you're really trying too hard to get the crowd into your music.


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