The Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA
May 31, 2013
I don’t even know where to begin on this one.
We all know the traditional setup of an EDM show: one or more people standing in front of a cluster of turntables, mixers, and a laptop that course through a two-hour set filled with flashing lights and glowing LCD screens. The DJs don’t really do much other than fist-pumping or bouncing with the music. Their movement is somewhat restricted since they have to mix, cue songs, and direct the flow of the performance.
Destroid’s show threw all of those rules and preconceived notions of EDM out the window. Canadian dubstep producers Excision and Downlink, along with drummer KJ Sawka (you may recognize him from a little drum-and-bass act known as Pendulum) put on an unforgettable performance during the world premiere of their collaboration project at The Warfield Theater in San Francisco. Dubbed (no pun intended) the first “live-bass” band, the show took concert attendees by surprise: It sounds like a set but looks like a band.
The show was kicked off by local act DJ Dials. His set wasn’t necessarily a great fit for this kind of show. While I’m all for a variety of artists to build an eclectic and memorable lineup,the set relied too heavily on rap and hip-hop tracks and slightly missed the mark on establishing a proper lead-in to the debut of Destroid’s extraterrestrial visual style and squelchy sound design.
Continuing the show was East Coast duo Designer Drugs, whom I interviewed prior to the show. Producers Michael Patrick and Theo Nelson performed an array of electronic music for an hour and five minutes, and was well-received by the entire crowd. They flew in from Philadelphia and New Jersey, and since this was a one-off show, no theatrics were present during the set. But with the quality of their set,he audience didn’t seem to mind in the least…
The lights come up and we are teased with the Destroid logo projected across the curtain of the stage. Each opener has performed in front of this curtain; no one has the slightest idea of what we’re about to see.
The lights go down. The room is filled with ambient spaceship sounds reminiscent of the Alien films. Suddenly, a deep voice not unlike that of a Decepticon risen from the depths of Hell, bellows, “San Francisco.” The crowd erupts in both excitement and alarm as this ominous voice speaks. “Join us, or be…Destroid.”
The curtain drops.
Very rarely will an artist’s set up make me say “Oh my God” in awe. This was one of those times. The crowd is treated to the three standing on top of lighting-struck podiums, manning their respective instruments, fog billowing across the bottom of the stage. KJ Sawka holds his place behind a double-bass drum kit, complete with cymbals and electronic trigger pads to create the beats that power each song.
Excision and Downlink stand opposite each other, holding guitar-like controllers in their hands. In all honesty, I’m still not sure how these instruments worked (but it was damn cool to watch). From the looks of it, they appeared to be custom MIDI pads which allowed them to program and manipulate any synths, bass lines, and various other instruments in the performance.
Oh, and did I mention that they all wore badass-looking space suits? I’ve never seen any kind of performance like this in the EDM community, and it was truly a spectacle. Innovation like this is refreshing to see and has been due on the EDM scene for months.
Another aspect of this show that resonated with me was the commanding sound system . Excision and Downlink are well known for working with a company named PK Sound. A large part of Excision’s recent tours is the One Hundred Thousand Watts of Bass provided by PK. The system was in full effect for the Destroid premiere. Excision has stated in past interviews that bass is something that is meant to be felt, not simply heard. Let’s put it this way: I stood at the back of the venue at one point, and I felt the bass throughout my entire body. Mind you, this was a large venue. Very impressive that it reached that far back, with so much force.
Destroid completed its first demonstration of an Elevated Existence at about 1 am. But no one in the crowd seemed to mind. We just wanted more bass.