Friday, February 15
Better than: Blogsplaining the obvious.
For me, the “Harlem Shake” dance craze–not to be confused with “Harlem Shake” or the actual Harlem shake–was one of those weird internet things (sort of like foreign policy decisions or what happened on last week’s Girls) that I first found out about via the backlash. “Oh, a controversy?” With no post quota to fill, I decided to pass, unaware that it would affect what I was to write about the upcoming Just Blaze and Baauer’s show at Webster Hall.
I’ve now seen the former DJ three times in the past year and a half: At the 2011 Fool’s Gold holiday party, he revived a mingling crowd with a set of a rap bangers, the first half of which were produced by the man himself. Then, at an October Boiler Room (don’t get me started) taping, he moved from those JB originals into a few of the dance/rap crossover tracks of the moment. Tracks, that is, like Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” one which among a certain set had been just about inescapable over the previous half a year. When it first came out, no one was quite sure what to call its combination of building synths, crisp hip-hop snares, and club music kitsch. Fifty million YouTube views later, it is (says one writer who nicely summarizes all the others) “the anthem of the trap music movement and has pushed EDM further into the mainstream.” Go figure.
So either way, then there was Friday night, my third time seeing Just Blaze DJ and my first time seeing Baauer. Arriving shortly after midnight, I had never seen Webster Hall so crowded. NYU students and alumni–far too many of them shirtless–pushed out past the bar at the back of the main room. I tried upstairs and that was even worse, so I went back down and found some room in the usually closed side bar off to stage right. Meanwhile, Just Blaze was playing what I faithfully recorded in my phone’s notepad as “what happened to that boy remix into a crew love remix into a swimmin pools remix maybe just blend,” and it dawned on me why fistpumping has become so popular: because these clubs are so oversold you can barely do anything else.
Still, Just’s set made you try your hardest. Surprisingly light on his own beats, he moved from from tracks like the Flosstradamus “Original Don” remix (what my out-of-date ass would have pegged as the anthem of the trap music movement) through the DJ Sliink/DJ Fresh/Nadus/DJ Rell Jersey club “Work It” remix, a monster even when it’s coming through the speakers on my laptop. On stage, I’d never seen him more lively. My friend described him as “hamming it up,” and when he came to the front of stage and started shooting t-shirts into the audience, I had to agree.
Baauer, embracing the EDM side of the trap music movement, mixed in festival-ready hits like Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction” and Tiësto’s “Pacha on Acid” (or, in both cases, possibly the RL Grime remix), blending the former into “Jah No Partial” and adding the “212” vocals on top of the latter, an odd choice considering that hours earlier he had fucked with its rapper for freestyling over “Harlem Shake.” If only there were some way for DJs to change their setlist between shows.
But yes, I’ll stop cracking my knuckles and just confirm for you that Friday’s setlist did include “Harlem Shake.” It wasn’t anti-climactic, exactly, but everybody had been dancing so much in the first place that the crowd couldn’t replicate the off/on jump cut of the viral videos. Oh well, those are overrated anyways.
Random notebook dump: “as far as i can gather, Major Lazer is the most popular group in the history of music”