As long as we can remember, we have loved DJ Shadow. Back in the late 90s, quite a few of the songs got some serious radio play, which was never enough in our opinion. We had very high hopes and serious excitement when he announced that he was coming to Houston.
After a pro-tip that free tickets were available if you were a part of the Ticketmaster class action lawsuit, we happily scored a pair (we would have paid anyways!). 2 days later, we received an email that we had WON tickets through an online contest as well. So, we set off that evening with 2 friends, and some ridiculous expectations.
We arrived somewhere in the middle of Mophono’s set (aka: DJ Centipede), who we had admittedly never heard of, which was a great way to start off our evening. We reveled in the mix of mid-century lounge and orchestral, beats, paired with grungey noise. He juggled LPs of all sizes, mixing in computer tracks, and even a MicroKorg with some serious mastery. He even dropped Possibly Maybe off of Bjork’s Telegram album. If he ever comes back solo, or accompanying anyone else, we are THERE.
Some announcements came over the loudspeakers after this point that we couldn’t understand, but we recognized DJ Shadow and Nas’s Systematic. We gleefully told our friends it was off the new EP, which they admitted they hadn’t heard yet.
Then DJ Shadow came on. Can we just cut to the chase and say it was amazing? Think of the best case scenario, add another couple of levels, and then squish a floating walking elephant into the mix. It was simply that awesome.
Now to the particulars. Shadow started out with The Mountain Will Fall, with some great visuals and really insanely bright lights. We had to retreat more towards the middle of the crowd, as the lights were in our face, and made it where we couldn’t see the visuals at all. Once we found that sweet spot, the show was a steady crescendo of amazing. The visuals were not your normal curated pulsing abstract with his name plastered on the background, but instead, it played like a long music video. Stunning animation after animation flowed through the tri-panel screens, while DJ Shadow scratched, juggled, and drummed alongside. The visuals varied, from pointed social commentary flashing RESIST, to dreamy crystalline landscapes, and then to lighthearted videos of DJ Shadow scratching around the world. As he ended his magical set with a remark that he should perhaps come around more often, he was met with a roar of approval.
This show was everything we had hoped it would be and more. Not only was his technique and full scope of his career highlighted, not just the new album and EP, but he played a track from his Nite School Klik venture (with G Jones). We knew most of the tracks, and the set was very The Mountain Will Fall and The Mountain Has Fallen heavy. The occasional tracks we didn’t recognize, we made a sad attempt at using our phone to identify them, which left us empty handed because tracks were created on the fly. He teased each track so that it would be brand new; he manipulated everything with fierce fearlessness floating over a sense of extreme calm. DJ Shadow is the epitome of those that are such an expert at what they do, it truly seems effortless. When it was all over, he mentioned his production team and played the credits for all of the amazing visuals, signed a record, and walked backstage.
We stood for several minutes in the side of the crowd without saying anything. Quiet hugs and mutters of “holy crap, that was awesome” followed as we all parted into the night.
An insanely talented, inventive opener that we will now stalk on social media forevermore. DJ FUCKING SHADOW taking us on a journey. Even the oldest of tracks became fresh at his hands. Stellar, 3D visuals, infusing humor, love, and a call to action.
About 5 minutes of having stage lighting shining directly in our faces.
Side note: to the guy that made fun of me and other people while I desperately ran to the restroom after drinking 3 large club sodas after Midnight in a Perfect World ended: Screw you. Most people that were moving around at that point were just leaving to get a quick beverage, not leaving for the evening. Your pointed jeering at the “not real fans” was petty. If you would have gotten off your DJ-Shadow-ier-than-thou high horse, you might have noticed that. Jerks.
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