Better Than: Spending six hours in a live action arcade game.
Last night, from 10 p.m. until 4 in the morning D33J, Jackmaster, Oneman, Rustie and Shlohmo played to a high-spirited Williamsburg crowd which braved terrible weather to support some of the most exciting rising stars in electronic music. It was an old-fashioned rave atmosphere, soundtracked by the newest sounds in hybridized production. Over the course of the night, genres including but not limited to grime, house, trap, R&B, and Southern rap were unleashed upon the eager crowd, comprised of a mix of students, Europeans, club kids and nondescript young professionals. The fans welcomed the constant onslaught of noise, packing Output’s two stories and thrashing together as one, demonstrating a (clearly) chemically-enhanced resilience that only began to diminish about an hour before the show ended.
Output opened just two months ago in a nondescript building on Wythe Avenue and from the moment you step into line, it’s clear that the venue takes itself very seriously. Their official copy reads “Output is open to anyone, but is not for everyone. [We] welcome individuals who value the communal experience of music over cameras and bottle service.” The employees present took this philosophy very seriously. I was made to check my camera at the door (press pass not a useful ally in this situation) and bouncers wandered both floors all night, discouraging almost all would-be paparazzos.
It’s all well and good to talk about promoting a communal experience, as long as the atmosphere within the venue strives to meet the standards set by such snooty language. Output did not disappoint. My friend remarked that standing inside was akin to living inside a gigantic pair of earphones, and the blocks of speakers scattered throughout the club testified to the comparison. There was not a dead zone in the venue — the sound was balanced and full no matter where you stood.
All this hardware set the stage nicely for the DJ’s, who performed in front of a wall of flashing lights which would pulsate whenever the energy of a set was especially high. D33J (pronounced deej) started off the night with a calm set, slowly getting the crowd in motion by playing a relaxing mix of R&B and downtempo EDM. Though he was done before the venue was fully packed, D33j played with an impressive amount of energy, hyping those present by playing his remix of “Started from the Bottom.” This was the first and best of three different mixes of the Drake single, which has proven to be irresistible to both producers and rappers.
Though Rustie and Shlohmo were technically the headliners, there didn’t seem to be any kind of hierarchy amongst the performers, at least not if set time is any indication. The longest performance of the night by far belonged to Jackmaster and Oneman, who DJ’d together for about two and a half hours, moving from Destiny’s Child to deep house to Damian Marley in extended sets. The two British DJ’s covered the most ground musically, and though their stage time was sprawling and occasionally unfocused, they were able to keep the crowd interested throughout. Whenever things got dull, one of the two would bring the crowd back to life by playing a sped-up or screwed pop song in its entirety, including Justin Timberlake’s “Til the End of Time” and Jessie Ware’s “Running.”
Rustie came on around 1:30 and played the tightest, most exciting set of the night, giving the crowd nothing but loud, fast music for almost exactly an hour. Though he dabbled in rap, with nods to Kendrick Lamar and Danny Brown amongst others, he mostly stuck to his guns, playing the kinetic, maximalist music he’s become known for. Along with several choice cuts from his 2011 album Glass Swords, he aired what sounded like a good amount of new material and dropped a couple of old standbys from labelmate and collaborator Hudson Mohawke. Rustie manages his sets with an impressive focus — even when the tracks are bringing the audience to the points of hysterics, he stays calm and collected, staring at his laptop screen.
Shlohmo’s onstage manner provides quite a contrast to Rustie’s dialed-in composure. The man born Henry Laufer was all over the stage last night/this morning, gesticulating like a madman as he played a bass-heavy mix of altered R&B. After the massive peaks of Rustie’s set, the audience started to die down, and Shlohmo’s choice to begin his set with slow-burning mash-ups of his old material and unintelligible reworks of old R&B probably helped clear out the second floor. Those who stayed were rewarded during the second half of his set though — Shlohmo ignited the crowd one last time with choice remixes of “Genie in a Bottle” and “Crew Love” as well as some of the best cuts from his excellent new Laid Out EP.
Critical Bias: I’m a huge fan of both Rustie and Shlohmo and I write about both of them a lot.