Friday, May 16, I had the pleasure of heading to one of my favorite venues in Philadelphia, The Trocadero, to take in yet another installment of Bass Nation Philly, this time the Outbreak Tour featuring Zomboy with ill.gates and Kicks n Licks.
The night opened with a feel good set from Kicks N Licks, a duo from San Diego, who were full of love for the forming crowd, repeatedly calling Philly their new home away from home. These two up and coming DJs, Andy Joplin and Jerrod Jordan, have roots in hip-hop, but have a varied repertoire. Their remix of Florence and the Machine’s Cosmic Love went over just as well live as it has as a bootleg over the past year. Their super engaging set also included their new remix of One Direction’s Counting Stars (which you can download for free on the KnL website).
These guys have a really upbeat attitude – I had the pleasure of catching up with Andy outside during one of the set breaks and he was just as gracious and positive while talking to the fans as he was behind the booth. Their vivacity and excitement were contagious, a great way to get everyone psyched up for the huge night of music ahead.
ill.gates was the next to take the stage and his ferocious, infectious, set was absolutely mind blowing. He brought a distinctly more hip-hop feel to the stage and where KnL were super hyped-up and engrossed in the crowd, ill.gates was far more nonchalant, letting his music (and his hairstyle) speak for itself. This included an audio sample of a 40s era speech with a corresponding video projection on the booth, which seemed like a call to action, or at the very least an announcement that ill.gates had arrived.
After warming up the crowd a little bit, ill.gates launched into his remix of Die Antwoord’s Fish Paste. For those of you who don’t know about this “South African Rap Rave” group, their strange but addictive music is oft sampled, but little recognized, as was the case on this evening (I was the only lunatic jumping up and down as soon as he played the first couple notes). From here he transitioned into his remix of Tiny Tempah’s Pass Out and then effortlessly weaving in NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. At this point I literally had my hands on my head, trying to keep my brain from exploding at the awesomeness of what I was hearing and then the screen on the front of the booth switched to video feed from a camera fixed directly above the MIDI pad he was skillfully playing and I literally stopped dead in my tracks so I could catch every second of his work.
Where some DJs get a bad rep for doing little more than hitting play, ill.gates, could not be more contrary. He had his hands moving a mile a minute, playing a DJ pad like a piano and when his hands are off his kit music isn’t coming out of the speakers. What I didn’t realize about ill.gates until this glimpse at his setup made me do a little research, is that he is a certified instructor of Ableton (the digital music sequencer/digital audio work station) as well as a bit of an entrepreneur, hawking everything from advice and lessons to hardware and software on his site illmethodology.com.
Watching him work made my appreciation for him grow exponentially. He has an ability to convey a sound that is as aggressive and violent as Skrillex, but without being angry or dissonant. Amid the growls and glitches he portrays an element of funk that makes it all go down smooth. He also brings an element of artistry to the ‘dropping of the bass’ by being unpredictable on the other side – a far cry from the banality that dubstep is often accused of. He is definitely an artist to keep an eye on. Like Gramatik, Griz and a slew of other up and coming headliners that were openers not so long ago, I predict he will continue climbing the ranks quickly. Check out his website for a host of free downloads – I recommend checking out his remix of Fish Paste which will give you a taste of ill.gates’s work, a preview of Die Antwoord (who will be in Philly June 8 at the Electric Factory!) and a glimpse of his next level hairstyle.
On a side note… If you’ve never been, The Trocadero is one of the coolest venues in Philadelphia. It’s an old theater with floor space, a mezzanine with built in bench stadium seating and a creepy-cool shabby chic vibe, which makes for an especially intimate venue. No matter where you are in The Troc, you feel like you are an arm’s length away from the stage, especially if you’re on the rail in the balcony. The sound quality is always amazing (even for Monday movie nights, which I highly recommend checking out!), granted a little bit goes a long way in a space built specifically for excellent acoustics. It’s marvelous to see music in a venue where you can have different experiences and always have great sound quality and a great view of the artists.
The night the Outbreak Tour took over The Trocadero, was one of those where after amazing sets from KnL and ill.gates, I was in serious awe and disbelief that there was more music coming my way. Then Zomboy, DJ Joshua Mellody, the man who brought this whole night to fruition, took the stage increasing the BPMs and turning up the heat in the already steamy Troc. His stage presence was a combination of the high energy of KnL and the laidback confidence of ill.gates giving the impression that he was the captain and he would be taking full control of the crowd. He brought with him a really fat, layered sound that included full-blown floor-shaking bass drops as well as funky little original melodies. By manipulating the speed and pitch of a super high synth noise that he played over parts of his set, it seemed like he was letting go of the ships wheel, letting her rip and then pulling everything back into his control at the last second.
Accordingly, the crowd, full of the so-called ‘Zombsquad,’ were super amped to be part of the Zomboy experience and were ready and willing to take his direction. Within the first couple minutes of his set half of the people in the balcony migrated downstairs to get dirty on the dance floor. From the balcony I got to see the entire crowd reacting en masse to every auditory move he made. I even saw the formation of a short-lived mosh pit during Here to Stay (feat. Lady Chann), which is no surprise considering the track crushed the dubstep charts on iTunes and Beatport after its release last year.
At this point in the evening I was completely exhausted (and soaked in sweat due to my ill-advised decision to wear a polyester blend), but I stood the course as Zomboy ventured into a much more hip-hop sound and incited the crowd to clap their hands. By the time the event staff gave him the sign to call it a night, the crowd was fully Zomboy-fied and they wanted more and more! And then in one of the iciest moves I have ever seen a venue pull, the Troc shut the evening down sans encore despite one of the loudest “One more song!” chants I have ever heard. The blood-thirsty crowd was none to pleased, throwing a group tantrum by stomping their feet so hard that the whole building shook more violently than it had during the entire night of heavy bass. The lights turned on, but the crowd stayed the course, now chanting “We’re not leaving!” until so much of the stage was broken down that it was clear that there was no hope. Instead of being a total disappointment, though, the abrupt ending left the crowd full of energy and appreciation for this epic night of music (and probably fueled the attendance at afterparties throughout the city, amidst rumors of Zomboy and ill.gates playing various spots).
We owe Mr. Mellody a debt of gratitude for bringing the Outbreak Tour to our humble city (and to one of the best venues we have!). This was a night of music that far surpassed my expectations and left everyone, I suspect the artists too, feeling like they had been part of one hell of an experience. Considering his borderline maniacal tour schedule, you may be able to catch Zomboy at one of 40 more stops on the Outbreak Tour between now and August. Also, look out for Zomboy’s new album The Outbreak, being released as a digital download a little later this year and in the meantime check out the Gametime EP and The Dead Symphonic EP on Soundcloud.
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