Decibel Festival 2011 Day 1: Dropping Gems / Beat Prodigies

Allen Huang / September 29, 2011
Photo by Christa M

The night started a little late as a late sound check held up the beginning of the Dropping Gems showcase at the HG Lodge. A small crowd of people waited patiently for the festivities to begin, while others grew impatient and headed up to Neumo’s. Determined to catch DJAO’s set (I had liked what I heard at his Street Halo session a couple weeks ago), I stayed outside and waited for the doors to open. About 20 minutes late the doors finally opened, and DJAO quickly began his set to a sparse but excited crowd.

DJAO’s doesn’t just fracture his beats; he smelts them down completely only to forge sludgy, washed out melodies and rhythms that seem to drift off into oblivion. But, even with his far out reimagining of the producer experience, there is a streak of nostalgia and appreciation in his work. Even in the murkiness of his set, one could pick out some not-so-direct odes to classic psychadelia and hip-hop. He was joined by a live guitarist, who, along with Timeboy’s tie-dye visuals, added yet another hallucinogenic layer to the affair.

After the set’s conclusion, our crew rushed up the street to join the rest of Capitol Hill at Neumos. There, Shigeto was destroying the stage, bouncing between his laptop, mixer and drum kit with frenetic speed. Though if you closed your eyes you wouldn’t have been able to tell; his mix was seamless to the naked ear. The entire crowd was impressed by his ability to multitask, and showed their appreciation for his efforts by dancing and dancing hard. Around 11 he thanked the crowd and asked if we were ready for AraabMuzik (yes). Unfortunately, AraabMuzik was not ready for AraabMuzik. Shigeto was asked to continue his set as they tracked down the Dipset producer, and he was more than happy to oblige.

Eventually the MVP of the MPC made his way on stage and set up his trusty machine. After a short introduction and the obligatory cat calls of “DIPSET,” AraabMuzik paused shortly, fiddled a few knobs, and then proceeded to blow everyone’s minds. Virtuoso doesn’t even begin to describe his skills with this classic production tool– Mr. Orellana is a freak on the pads. Give him a handful of samples and a drum bank and he can keep a party going for hours, if not days. His fans were out in droves as cheers erupted through the crowd when he played “Streetz Tonight” off his Electronic Dream album. There were multiple times when the crowd stared in awe at the pure speed he was banging out beats that blurred the lines between club banger and hip-hop anthem. “I don’t know why I thought this might be boring,” said a friend of mine with a grin plastered on his face. Love him or hate him, AraabMuzik’s could never be called dull.

Video by Sean Palmer

DJ KRUSH was of a different breed than the rest of the showcase’s participants. While some DJs attempt to change with the times to stay afloat, KRUSH finds no need to bend to the times. His set brought the 90’s back in a big way, with trip-hop samples fitted onto classic break beats with the utmost accuracy. Jazzy, moody, low-key, but sometimes a bit funky, KRUSH didn’t disappoint his fans at all. More importantly, he brought a sense of image to the night; the man exudes class, confidence and cool, and his beats follow suit.

Photo by Angela Dawn Peterson

But even the classy need a little kitsch in their diet. Before ending the evening, KRUSH pushed out crowd pleasing mashups of Queen and Led Zeppelin staples. I was much too tired to respond to them either way, but you can’t argue with a crowd full of happy Decibel Fest goers. Trust me.

Check out more videos shot by our own Sean Palmer here.

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