Back in December, DJ Shadow had kind of a weird experience in Miami.
He took the booth at Mansion, just to be kicked off for not playing enough big-room house music. It's been this great thing for hipsters to lament and bitch over, but with the inaugural III Points Festival, the music geeks got their revenge.
"It was never about me and the city," Shadow said, introducing himself, "it was about me and like five people. Now, I'm here DJing this for you, and by the way, there's no laptop here."
Nothing was "too future" for the fans at III Points, who spent their time before Shadow's performance hesitantly grooving to the sounds of Fortune Howl and the Relief in Abstract label crew or meandering about the bars or art installations that lined the Sound Stage at Mana Wynwood.
The art was pretty wacky in the best way possible. In one corner, the sexually ambiguous Immamess danced the wild siren. There was a large pile of dirt, a trippy room for having your face painted, a random living room scene, a bunch of Slurpies on the floor, and a disgusting bus converted into a chill spot complete with dirty couch and hardcore porn playing on an old television. Basically, you should have been on acid.
But as soon as DJ Shadow took the mic, the bodies huddled together on the dance floor to witness redemption. He went straight into the dark stuff, hitting us hard with gnarly hip-hop-inspired beats. It was like a trap-house set that hasn't been marred by repetition and shitty commercialization.
Shadow was barely visible from the front of the stage. He hung his head low over his equipment, obscured by flashing images of trippy boomboxes and gyrating ass jelly. But from the side, you could see his hands furiously beating out the rhythms. It was a constant deluge of bass and sweat.
He blasted through jams from Kendrick Lamar and hooks sung by Future. He gave shout-outs to his favorites, letting the crowd know this was "Cashmere Cat on the beat," or that he was giving us some true California flavor. He encouraged the crowd to let loose and get lost in vibes.
"I can see a couple of you are just downright scared," he teased. "These are evil beats."
He turned it up with some drum 'n' bass tempos and brought it down into soulful territory. Some tracks were tinged with metal guitar, some scratched over and slowed down. At one point, the music went out and he was all, "That's what you call human error," but it was the kind of thing you wouldn't even think he did on accident if he kept his mouth shut. It kind of felt like the DJ could do no wrong.
"Hopefully, you can tell I love what I do," he said, "It's because of people like you that I do what I do."
Photo by Ian Witlen
Shadow played some brand new tracks that'd been finished that day in the hotel and finished strongly, having occupied the booth for a bit more than an hour before handing it over to XXYYXX, the young kid from Orlando.
Originally, Shadow was supposed to finish the night out, but instead, we were treated to a most experimental finish from Relief in Abstract's biggest star.
The Orlando resident brought it hard and didn't hold back, cutting up the records, leaving the beats bloody and unrecognizable. It might have been a bit much for some of the partiers, but we were just the right amount of drunk to consider it brilliant, and don't try to tell us otherwise.
He mixed through some of his debut-album hits, reworking the tracks into new sounds, bringing as much quirk as soul, and he ended his hour-long set with a meaningful yet strange message for the masses.
"Do what you want to do, because you're going to die."
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Aww, yes. And on that note, everyone drunkenly stumbled home, an even longer last day of festivities looming on the horizon.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.