The Vagabond, Miami
Better Than: Any of the usual stale club music fare going on wherever else!
OK, we'll just admit that Mary Anne Hobbs is our number-one female DJ crush of the year -- and the Miami stop last night of her current Road Warrior Tour surely won over many, many more clubbers. You've got to love a fierce lady who came up in punk and metal, drives motorcycles, and now, after more than two decades in media, is still kicking ass and unearthing the latest in deep, dark underground electronic music.
Thanks to her smart tour curation, each performance last night offered something different from what's found even in many local dubstep sets. The positive response proved that Miami indeed may be ready for some more eclecticism.
That was true even during Gonjasufi's brief opening set, which kicked off the main event around 12:45 a.m. after some crowd-hyping by Alpha Pup artist Take. The post-hip-hop mystic, on recordings, switches between straightforward rapping and otherworldly, warbling singing.
That kind of dramatic change-up deserves a good sound mix, which he just didn't get. The first two songs of his performance suffered from too-loud onstage monitors -- something that could be heard from the middle of the floor -- as well as overly loud bass and distorted, muffled vocals.
For those previously unfamiliar with this unique artist, this was not a good introduction. It wasn't for lack of effort on his part, though, as he went from usual hip-hop hype-ups to that strange singing, which he preferred to emit while hunched over, his back sometimes to the crowd.
Most of those gathered at this point, though, were forgiving, as they seemed to know all of his songs. Things perked up considerably by the third selection, "Ancestors," during which at least the backing track finally came into better balance and filled the room with crackly, ghostly trip-hop.
Only a couple quick songs followed, and then his DJ, Scumbag Tony of L.A. duo Crime, stole the show with an extended Nanoloop solo -- meaning, he played the Gameboy. And it was danceable. Amazing.
Promptly at 1 a.m., the queen herself took the decks. "Let's rock this mother!" she yelled, and didn't waste any time, playing crushingly from the very first second. Hobbs flattened the crowd with ear-splitting, heavy ragga bass, before moving into slightly more atmospheric sounds, then quickly to cabinet-rattling grime and back through tracks like King Cannibal's "Dirt" and Girl Unit's "Shade On."
Somehow, in the middle of all this dirty, dark, flattening dude music, she managed to look cute, bouncing to the songs and dancing to keep the crowd hyped. Not that she needed to work much on that, especially towards the middle and end of her set, when she went for earthquake levels of straight dubstep. This segment even eared the evening's only proper reeeeee-wind...
A remix of Collie Buddz' "Come Around" -- a song that apparently will never die in bass circles! -- as well as Dr. P's "Sweet Shop," ended the set on a crowd-pleasing note. Interestingly, though, she mentioned the rising importance of UK funky in our interview with her, Hobbs never really stepped into that lighter territory. This was probably a wise choice in this particular club set, as local tastes still tend towards the unrelentingly heavy, and the following acts only took things darker.
Lorn, who followed at 2 a.m., started with an original track "I made this on the plane on the way over," he announced. It was spare indeed, as was the rest of his set, which was probably the most left-field of the night. Eschewing the obvious wobbles and big hooks, he opted instead for a kind of hiccuping sound that bordered on IDM.
It was almost entirely vocal-less, too, minus some hip-hop flavor via samples from tracks like Biggie's "Suicidal Thoughts," and a surprise ad-lib reappearance by Gonjasufi about halfway through.
Though the crowd had dwindled slightly by the time evening-closer Take went on at 3 a.m., he didn't let up, picking up on Lorn's thread but often taking things closer to dubstep. It was an appropriate way to end the evening, bridging current crowd favorites and next-level sounds.
Personal Bias: I love reverse-warp basslines, crushing volumes, and female DJs who are ballsy enough to slay a room full of dudes.
The Crowd: Surprisingly diverse, though still male-heavy, including more than a few who still insisted on wearing tough-guy hoodies in that sweaty, sweaty room. Perhaps the hoodie is to bass as the scarf was/is to minimal techno ... Temperatures be damned.
Overheard in the Crowd: Gonjasufi said, from the stage, "Anyone here know my shit?" Random drunk bro in the crowd behind me, "Yeah, I've seen you walking up and down Washington Avenue!"
By the Way #1: The excellent visuals for the evening, which flowed from synthetic animations to film clips to anime snippets, came courtesy of Dr. Strangeloop, who let most of the shine go to the other performers.
By the Way #2: If you're reading this on Saturday and you're at all interested in this kind of music, you're going to the Surefire Sound show at Eve tonight, right? If not, maybe Datsik next Saturday at the Fillmore, or Zeds Dead at the same venue the week after that? It's been a good couple months for heavy bass in Miami.
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