Ed. Note: This review has been edited to correct some inaccurate language. Rocks Off regrets the errors.
Praia Urbana Last Concert Cafe March 10, 2011
Between the unrelenting rain and RodeoHouston traffic, Saturday night got a little messy as Aftermath attempted to weave through the outskirts of downtown for the Last Concert Café's all-day electronica festival Praia Urbana.
Nevertheless, considering all the variables that could've led to a thin crowd, Saturday was said to the be strongest Praia season openers Last Concert Café has seen in recent years.
It may not be a fair assumption, but because of LCC's location (between a pair of warehouses, and deep in an alley off I-10 and Nance), it's easy to confuse the festival for a rave -- which, in so many words, Praia Urbana
is is not.
East End Boys Productions LLC again took the reins for the festival's production, and produced an event as convenient and visitor-friendly as possible, assuring all outside interferences (rain, first aid, security) were tightly in order for the night's festivities.
In light of the recent noise-ordinance issues, there was much talk prior to the festival that HPD would be a possible threat to Praia Urbana's success, especially since electronic music tends to be best when digested in decibels far exceeding the Houston City Council-sanctioned level. Promoters say Praia Urbana was conceived to keep relations healthy with Last Concert Cafe's neighbors, and that they have never had any noise issues in the past. - ed.
But like most of the night's possible logistical mishaps, HPD and Last Concert Café managed to stay on even terms and avoided butting heads Saturday, even as the crowds became particularly rowdy as the clock neared
midnight the scheduled shutdown time.
As in past years, Praia Urbana's lineup welcomed artists of wide-ranging celebrity. This year's most notable attraction, British
dubstep house-music DJ ATFC, turned in one of the night's strongest performances. From what Aftermath could tell, he also induced the highest volume of clothes-stripping under the main tent.
House DJ SPEN took over the Urbana Stage late in the afternoon, and turned in one of the festival's best-received sets. The dancing didn't stop for spilled beer, so it's safe to say that by the end of his gig, several kegs' worth of alcohol was on the dance floor.
While the different sets ranged in musical influences, the vast majority drew from
the dubstep phenomenon house music that has torn across U.S. mainstream electronica after more than a decade of building momentum in the UK (but was born in Chicago).
Though scattered pop samples including Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" got a strong reception from the thousands of paid attendees -- about 2,000, by our estimation -- more obscure tracks seemed to affect the dance floor about the same as the DJs' more significant nods to popular music .
In all honesty, that just happens to be part of the electronica culture: Whether DJs draw from
dubstep, electroclash or the current U.S. amalgam "Bro-Step," house music, Latin or soul, the crowd seems not to mind.
The wave of dance music may change modes occasionally, as displayed in Praia Urbana's obvious love affair with
dubstep dance music, but the goal for listeners will always be the same: To take in the atmosphere, and groove without inhibition.
As far as the crowd, to digress, it's always a risky task to take pictures in a
rave-like festival atmosphere. While flashing light machines are good for getting into the dancing groove, they're not always so good for a camera.
It may seen counterintuitive, but the easiest way to determine the success of Praia Urbana's first run of the year is the amount of hysteria present. Make no mistake, festivals like Saturday's are not for the faint of heart.
Praia Urbana offers a different kind of emotional experience than, say, at a Bon Iver show. People want to let loose. People want to sweat. People want to hook up.
It's a different kind of musical appreciation, but from the look of the crowd on the way back to their cars, it's just as potent as any other kind of show.
Personal Bias: Good for the young, the adventurous and those looking for a midlife-crisis fix.
The Crowd: Free spirits of all ages (see above).
Overheard In the Crowd A nasty lovers' quarrel. Quoth the male: "I hate this shit. People here are animals."
Random Notebook Dump: Don't get deep in the dance-floor area unless you really, truly want to be there.