Bassnectar In Gainesville, With Eskmo
Jerk and I got to the Venue, on University Avenue, about an hour before the show started and quickly made our way to the bar. Two petite girls served us Heinekens as we eyed the stage set-up from the second-level height.
“Who’s playing?” one of them asked us. Bassnectar, we told them.
“Is it one guy or what?” the other asked. He’s a DJ, we explained, just one guy. We asked them if they’re fans at all of bass and let them know to expect a big crowd of kids who want to drink a lot of water.
“I walked in and saw the lights,” one of them said. “I figured they must be big because I’ve never seen that before.”
She was right, the place was done up proper. Five, tall rectangular screens surrounded the DJ table set-up, which was covered in equipment and showered with glowing lights. I’ve seen GirlTalk and Of Montreal at the Venue, but never a DJ set like this, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it accommodates the atmosphere.
As the clock neared ten, the doors officially opened and more people started flowing in as Gainesville-local DJ Herb Adikt was getting the crowd warmed up. People’s eyes were wide as they walked almost hesitantly into the large but still empty area. By the end of the night, any such inhibitions would be forgotten.
The excitement was contagious and this crowd seemed to know what it was in for. I heard a girl in a sequin dress squeel out to her friends, “We’re going to see Bassnectar,” and do a little hop. I found myself thinking back, trying to remember, or in hindsight realize, when this whole dirty bass addiction started infesting the masses.
As the place filled, Herb Adikt finished his set and San Fran-based producer Eskmo took the stage to eager applause. Within moments, bass began to fill the air and cries rose up from the bellies of the crowd. It had begun.
Eskmo‘s set was a great build up to the hard headliner. His beats were lazy yet driving, the sort of thing that makes your shoulders drop and your body rock side to side, just the thing to get the crowd going. Eskmo, real name Brendan Angelides, stood behind the deck mutely banging out, just slightly bouncing, like a turtle bobbing its head.
Eskmo is more than a DJ. Throughout his set he kept fucking with synths and samples in real-time, adding layers and playing tracks, sometimes leaning over to the mic to softly murmur melodic phrases. “Let them sing, let them sing,” he whispers.
Everyone was vibing, people were on their way up so to speak. Girls in sunglasses and tutus grooved with lollipops in their pursed mouths. Pacifiers betrayed those in the crowd with their eyes closed. Some kids were carrying around little glowing axes, Mali hatchets.
Eskmo, feeding off the crowd’s building energy, became more and more animated. He started kicking his leg up behind him to the beat, switching it up on everyone spontaneously but fluidly with one arm behind his back. As the tempo increased, the gyrating hips followed.
After about an hour or so, his set ended, which would’ve been too bad if not for what was coming next.
Bassnectar came on hard, hair swinging wildly as the crowd threw up their hands.
“Everybody feelin’ good?” he asked, and they scream on command. Suddenly, the bartenders near the speakers start to lose their stoic facade and start jamming, bobbing their heads with the rest of us. Like I said, this venue isn’t used to this kind of show, but it seems like no one can escape the good times tonight.
Now that the headliner has hit, the visuals really start poppin’ off. All five screens were lit up like Christmas trees on fire, vacillating between brilliant colors and shapes, and images of faces and space-like scene-scapes.
Bassnectar’s set was a hard-hitting, genre-hopping journey through contemporary cool. In the beginning, it was full of hip-hop samples and drum styles. He played a mashing of Dr. Dre’s “Next Episode” and Grandmaster Flash classic “The Message.” He played a sweet mix of Missy Elliot’s “Work It.” He played a beefed-up version of the Pacman song just for kitsch.
Everybody was raging, getting down like wild animals as if the pictures weren’t going to end up online. Some kids snuck in some silly string and let it loose as Bassnectar switched it up into some unrelenting bass covered in grimy guitar riffs. It dawns on me, a remix of White Zombie’s “More Human Than Human.” Sweet.
He explores the different ends of rock’n’roll. He mixes The Beatles “Strawberry Feilds” with Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets.”
“Let me take you, higher and higher and higher.”
People were dancing on the club benches and stair banisters. They were screaming and sweating and swaying like mad hatters. The stage hands tossed blown-up balls to the sea of arms and crowd-surfers emerged from below. There was totally a kid standing next to me with a bandanna and a glow-necklace wrapped around his head, covering his eyes. Gainesville was partying it up.
He played his remix of Nelly Furtado’s old jam “Magical World,” but it was his song “Basshead” that seemed to illicit the most raucous response. When he finally ended his set, after mixing for almost three hours, the hoots and hollers forced him to come back on and play some more brutal edits.
“That was brand new, I’ve never played it before,” he yelled out when it was really, really over. “I hope you liked it.”
And like it they did.
(See more pictures of the event here.)