Last Friday, the 9:30 club was transformed from everyone’s most beloved concert venue to a dance floor paradise as the club owners turned down the distortion and turned up the bass. Canada natives MSTRKRFT and the British DJ John Digweed were the main focus of the evening and provided a backbone upon which the audience could dance to its heart’s content.
The show started off with a profoundly average DJ. Although the beat he used was solid, after nearly 45 minutes of minimally varying patterns, it got old. Although at one point the beat progressed to a certain combination of percussive synth leads that was rather interesting, it was only present for a very limited amount of time and eventually dissolved into more dreary waves of uninspired house.
MSTRKRFT (pronounced Master Craft) was a much-needed alleviation to the staleness that started the evening. MSTRKRFT features two DJs: Jesse Keeler of Death From Above 1979 fame and a DJ who goes by Al P. MSTRKRFT started as a side project for Keeler but escalated to his full-time project when DFA79 announced its disbandment in August 2006. While DFA79 was primarily a garage rock/metal band with a certain dance sensibility, MSTRKRFT is a primarily house-oriented act with some traces of the distorted bass licks Keeler was famous for in DFA79.
Although at times, MSTRKRFT has trouble distinguishing itself from established electronic acts such as Daft Punk due to its use of vocoded vocals and similar arrangements, MSTRKRFT’s beats are nonetheless fresh and funky, and gets the crowd moving quite effectively. This is dance music that achieves success not by overt originality, but rather by well-crafted beats. Additionally, MSTRKRFT produced an exceptionally hardhitting yet clear sound that yet to be heard from the 9:30 club’s immaculate sound system. The bass permeated the entire club but never overshadowed the ornately placed synth lines, which added a percussion of their own and were actually integral to the beat.
MSTRKRFT eventually handed the DJ spot over to John Digweed, who is renowned in the electronic music world for his work with DJ Sasha playing at New York City’s exclusive Twilo club. Despite his achievement and obvious skill in producing a very signature groove, the audience had been hit quite hard by MSTRKRFT’s unrelenting attack and was noticeably less active during Digweed’s set. It was obvious that although the crowd was enjoying what they heard, they simply didn’t have the energy after three hours to continue with the same vivacity. Perhaps having MSTRKRFT play last might have been a wiser choice.
One might have gone to the show expecting to see MSTRKRFT and John Digweed in some sort of band style format with fans as the majority of the audience. Instead, MSTRKRFT and John Digweed played DJ sets which included fleshed out remixes of their recorded songs to a group of people who were obviously attracted to the show’s dance-provoking qualities and did not come to see those two acts specifically. The show was quite packed however, so word must have gotten around that these electronic masters know how to work a dance floor, which they proved quite continuously throughout the evening.
While at most concerts the entire audience stands still, continually staring at the stage, this audience broke the conventions completely. The lighting system had no spotlights focused on the DJ. Instead the spotlights shot around the dance floor providing a rave-like atmosphere. The audience was much more active than any other shows attended at the 9:30 club, which was both interesting and liberating, as it is much easier to let go of inhibitions when the entire audience is moving.
This concert was a killer combination of rhythmic masters who quite elaborately displayed their talent to an eager crowd who drank every last drop. Both MSTRKRFT and John Digweed’s live shows are absolutely essential to any dance fan and shouldn’t be missed.