Le Poisson Rouge
Tuesday, February 22
Better Than: Spending my night surrounded by twenty-somethings making out to “Islands.”
Here’s who we expected to show up for last night’s Jamie xx show at Le Poisson Rouge: black-shrouded scenesters timid on the dance floor but loud in encouragement, curious xx lovers, Fader readers, Gil Scott-Heron fans, a handful of those types who voluntarily attend parties where “trip hop” is the prominently featured genre, and celeb hounds hoping a few of the producer’s collaborators (Scott-Heron, Adele, Florence Welch) would appear as the listed “special surprise act.” We got all of that, and then some.
To be honest, the scene that greeted us inside was a bit of a surprise. Tonight’s dance floor was a constantly moving wave of nearly 600 people, half of whom were wildly drunk button-downs, though Jamie xx most likely didn’t notice; early on, the DJ barely seemed to notice anything at all. He certainly didn’t seem to be trying as hard as his openers, Sepalcure, who’d battered our eardrums with heavy bass, U.K. funky, and even a dubstep remix of Inoj’s “Love You Down” just moments before. Soon, though, it was apparent that he wasn’t trying as hard because, well, he just doesn’t have to. While the duo before him spent a large amount of time jumping around and hollering at each other (while the girls below them made inscrutable gang signs at the onset of a Waka Flocka track), Jamie Smith was content to lurk in the shadows.
It’s not that he doesn’t care — his set was thoughtful, precise, and highly introspective from the get-go, something he might just as easily have played alone in his bedroom — the audience was a variable that only mildly changed things. Barely looking up from his turntables or the crate of records behind him, Smith initially mixed mostly house and dubstep, focusing on the more melodic output of the latter, sometimes letting the melodies overpower a virtually inaudible bass. The softly swooping lulls in the music were purposeful, the breaks focused less on propelling the audience into a frenzy and more on encouraging listeners to ride out his thought process alongside him. Sometimes the audience mistook that millisecond of silence as a cue to scream as loud as possible.
At the onset of “New York Is Killing Me,” the loveliest of his recently released collaborations with Gil Scott-Heron, we hoped the man himself would put in an appearance: no dice, unfortunately. We did, however, spot Florence Welch in the booth. (The xx’s remix of “You Got The Love” is one of our favorites.) And while things got a bit more club-friendly after that, Smith still managed to put his own spin on it. The bass on Cool Kids’ “Bassment Party” hit harder and deeper than we remember, while the “Bucky Done Gun” horns powered a glitchy dubstep tune mixed into grime, dancehall, and his own remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” We knew the guy could produce (though he’s certainly no genius quite yet), and it’s nice to see him maintain a level of understated control in a way that feels, for a lack of a better word, smart. The tensions he creates (throwing a drum ‘n’ bass break under a hauntingly low murmur of bass, for example) are gripping, his all-vinyl selection is outstanding, and I stayed an hour longer than I intended.
Critical Bias: So serious about this remix.
Overheard: “Are you a Gil Scott-Heron fan?” “I had never heard of him before, but I love his dubstep remixes.”