This past Wednesday, an eagerly anticipated text message was waiting for me when I got off work. It read simply, “You’re Set.” It was from SceneSC’s founder and Editor in Chief David Stringer, and was in reference to my attempts to get press access to the Bassnectar show that night. Since emerging in 2005 Lorin Ashton – aka Bassnectar – has grown to become one of the premier electronic acts in the world today, even getting billed above world heavyweights Skrillex and Steve Angello (of Swedish House Mafia fame) at last year’s CounterPoint Festival in Atlanta. When I saw the Columbia date announced, I knew I had to see it for myself.
This would be my first concert at the Township Auditorium and I must say the recent renovations looks spectacular. Walking into the auditorium from the lobby, the empty floor had a bit of a gladiator pit vibe to it. Given the somewhat aggressive and abrasive nature of a lot of EDM these days, it was a feeling not at odds with the evening’s entertainment. A sizeable crowd was already inside (I would say half capacity) over two hours before Bassnectar was expected to take the stage. At first I was impressed with the costumes and signs that concert goers had crafted for the evening (as the night went on it became very clear that these were essentially a uniform, as 90% of the crowd became an indistinguishable mass of day glo and neon colors), with the “Chicken Soup for the Bass Head’s Soul” sign a particular favorite. After taking in the surroundings, the first opener was set to begin.
The first opener was Thirftworks, hailing from California. Taking the stage at about 7:45, most of those in attendance seemed pretty disinterested in the music, which was a real shame. Thriftworks brought a very heady vibe to the table, with 8bit heavy hip hop beats that would not have been out of place at the Flying Lotus/Thundercat/Teebs show I attended a few weeks ago. He would occasionally go into trap-style beats, perhaps in an attempt to engage an audience clearly ready to rage, before going back into his hazier, stuttering beats. Any fans of Brainfeeder material should definitely check this guy out.
Next came Grant Kwiecinski, aka GRiZ, and he came roaring out from the start. Equipped with a set of controllers, a laptop and a saxophone, GRiZ’s set began with what felt like a literal explosion of energy. The volume ratcheted up noticeably – (Insert earplug now. I’ve been going to concerts for a number of years now, across a wide variety of genres and venues and this was hands down one of the loudest concerts I have ever been to.), and he launched into a stream of very funky hip hop grooves. As of late GRiZ can be found collaborating with Gramatik (an artist who evokes Bonobo and dubstep equally), and their funk-meets-weird-synthesizers sound was definitely on display. Kwiecinski proved more than capable as a multi-instrumentalist, adding in sax solos and some scratching for good measure.
But these people were here for capital D Dubstep, and GRiZ was not one to keep them waiting for long. (My note at 9:15: DUBSTEP!!!!) Huge drops and a brutally unforgiving level of bass, and really overall volume, was leveled at the crowd and they loved every second of it. His set concluded and the anticipation of the main event began to build.
At 9:45 sharp, Bassnectar took the stage. He warmly greeted the crowd before the gigantic digital count down began. You can’t help but be over awed by his visual display, as virtually the entire stage was a projection screen. The first chunk of the set kept things in the 90 bpm range, which allowed for a great deal of versatility. Ashton was able to seamlessly move between hip hop, drum and bass and his signature dubstep sound. And the visual display perhaps exceeded my already high expectations (for my money, they were cooler than Skrillex’s).
Another feature of this show that I liked a lot: there were people who decked out in official Bassnectar gear whose sole job was to pass out water to anyone in the crowd who needed it (if I see another t-shirt referencing someone’s good friend Mollyâ€¦). Whether these were volunteers or actual employees is uncertain. Bassnectar has put a great deal of emphasis on interacting with his fans, regularly answering emails on his website, involving fans with his charity work etc, and it was nice to see an artist take responsibility for his fans (most artists/bands would leave that kind of work up to the venue).
Bassnectar’s music frequently sounds rooted in hip hop, and I was intrigued to see how much of America’s current Trap obsession had made its way into his sound. Tracks such as “Freestyle ft. Angel Haze” and “Vava Voom ft. Lupe Fiasco” were in the same tempo range and wouldn’t be out of place in a trap set, but also had Bassnectar’s undeniable touch. Several of the security guards couldn’t resist this part of his set and could be seen jumping around and dancing as much as anyone in the crowd.