Wednesday, Oct. 17. Emo’s, Austin, Texas:
I walk between the two giant tour busses parked outside Emo’s, wondering how much gas those things cost, not to mention printing the massive photo of Benny Benassi on the side of one of ’em. I get my wristband and step into the venue to see that it’s Toddy B up on the decks already. I know Toddy a small bit from around town and am happy to see some of Austin’s better dancefloor-filling talent out to support Benassi.
Taking notice of the small but quickly growing crowd, I find a spot on the bleachers in the back to post up. Tonight, I came to see Benassi, inarguably a legend and one of the top DJs in the world for years, show a crowd of mixed adult partiers and dance-music-loving kids (many of whom were still in grade-school when Benassi came to fame) that he can, indeed, still bring it.
Toddy’s still on the decks as I get settled, and I find myself already smiling at his trademark big, un-ironic energy and love for heavy bangers of tracks. People are still streaming in, and I notice a small but strong contingent of kids sporting the tell-tale signs of rave culture peppered in with the more straightforwardly-dressed. As Toddy drops Umek’s “Carbon Occasions,” I decide to play a game with the night and see how many distinct pieces of raver regalia and behavior I can spot throughout the night.
I decide to play a game with the night and see how many distinct pieces of raver regalia and behavior I can spot throughout the night.
Toddy brings it hard with more punchy electro and big party house tracks like Kurd Maverick’s “Hell Yeah” and Fatboy Slim’s remix of Playgroup’s “Front to Back” as I bust open an untouched page on a notebook and title it “Signs You’re at a Rave.” “Big ass psychedelic light show” and “teeth rattling bass” are the first listed and checked off as Toddy raps his typically excellent set.
Next up, Italian-based duo Pink is Punk. Not surprisingly, they go hard on the bassed-up electro house and techno as well, though they stick to tracks with few vocal samples or decorative trappings, focusing instead on (mostly) straightforward beats. We’re getting to that point in the night when the forest of raised hands has become substantial and semi-permanent, and I notice that there seems to be a pack of glovers (kids who use gloves with LED lights in the tips of the fingers to put on light shows) gathering right in front of me. This goes on the list as Pink is Punk slams energy into the crowd with a more vocals-heavy track (Steve Aoki Feat. Kid Cudi & Travis Barker- Cudi the Kid).
They wrap up their set with more positive-vibed tracks like current electro darling Tommy Trash’s remix of PNAU’s “Unite Us,” and I’m able to mark down “girls wearing giant fuzzy boots and little else” and “a generous sprinkling of neon-clad jock and jockette types” on the Rave List before they switch over the decks to Krewella.
I’ve checked off “butterfly wings,” “tutus in multiple colors” and “white boys chewing their own faces off” from my list.
It’s looking more and more like a rave every second. Chicago trio Krewella is the most dynamic and genre-bouncing of the night yet, and by the time they bust out Tom Staar’s remix of My Digital Enemy & Rob Marmot’s chanting “African Drop,” I’ve checked off “butterfly wings,” “tutus in multiple colors” and “white boys chewing their own faces off” from my list. Tommy Trash gets a bit more love from the night (“Monkey See, Monkey Do”), as do openers Pink is Punk (“My Ferarri feat. D’Aaron Anthony”) as Krewella continues their highly aggressive, driving set.
They bring us out of the 100-130 bpm range for the first time in the night by mixing in some slamming dubstep, both bringing in other people’s tracks (Metric – Collect Call [Adventure Club remix]) and using it to great effect as an element in some of their own tracks. These tracks, always recognizable by their chopped, warped, party-lyric-heavy female pop vocals and major-key melodies, are some of the best of the night and I hear at least two people in the audience around me mention that they came specifically to hear Krewella’s productions live (such as “Play Hard” and “Feel Me”).
After about the 50th “MAKE SOME NOISE!”-s and “ARE YOU READY, AUSTIN?”-s of the night, I see that the glovers around me are starting to teach each other tricks and give light shows to the hoard of underagers decked out in kandy that has gathered around them. I also notice more than a few kids not-so-discreetly popping things into their mouths before giving massages to other kids (“That feels soooo gooood”), and all of this goes on the list. I go ahead and make it official- this is a for-real, legitimate rave.
Krewella continues to play past the one hour mark, somewhat confusing me because Congorock had been listed on at least one of the event blasts for the show. Google quickly tells me that Congorock isn’t joining the tour until a few days later, meaning the rest of the night will be more Krewella until Benassi comes out. That’s a bit more of one act than I typically like (they ended up playing for two hours, longer than Benassi himself), but I’m digging the way that they mix in genres like trap (the RL Grime and Salva remix of the ubiquitous “Mercy”) and DnB along with reworks of well-loved songs (Oasis’ “Wonderwall” gone house, Jibb’s “Does Your Chain Hang Low,” MGK’s “Wild Boy,” Daft Punk’s “Aerodynamic”).
I mark down “kids wearing Sub-Zero masks made out of beads” in my raver list.
Despite putting further life into that evil fucking Gotye song that will never die, I appreciate Krewella’s willingness to stray from the expected massive-drop electro and dubstep and into the territory of the weird at times, and all the 16-year-old-lookin’ girls with beers and sparkle bras (on the list), kids trying to shuffle and jumpstyle (on the list) and sloppily drunk couples making out shamelessly (on the list) love it. I mark down “kids wearing Sub-Zero masks made out of beads” in my raver list just before I write “excellent, varied set of danceparty tracks” on my main notes under Krewella.
I’m trying to ID a track I wasn’t quite sure about while Benassi’s shit gets set up, when I’m asked by some scantily clad girls of indeterminate age to try and get the attention of one of the glovers giving a show by me. The kid, wearing a bear hat with paws that hang down to his stomach (on the list), ignores me completely, and I shrug at the girls. I ID the old-school track dropped by Krewella (Hard Rock Sofa & Swanky Tunes- Here We Go) and look up just in time to see said girls sidling up to Mr. Glowy Hands Bear Hat, who seems to have just slipped something into one of the girls’ hand and got something papery and green-lookin’ in return. The Emo’s staff members stalking the area from time to time, looking vigilant, suddenly make sense as I write “accidentally notice/almost become accessory to drug deal” on my list.
Benassi takes the stage to thoroughly enthusiastic chants of “Benn-y! Benn-y!”, and I wonder if in his 20-plus career he ever gets tired of hearing that. It’s immediately apparent that the super-hi-def projector/screen combo there is specifically for him, as he plays a quick little “tour intro” vid naming all the 33 cities on this tour. I laughed a little when Lubbock showed up after Austin on the list, but then cheered as loud as the rest of ’em when he went back to showing “Austin” on the screen and put the house lights on the crowd. The white lights then cut out, leaving a criss-cross of deep purple beams going straight horizontally and vertically in front of the Italian legend.
Benny shows right away the kind of versatility, musical knowledge and crowd interaction that only a DJ who’s been in the game as long as he has can, dropping both new and classic as well as well-loved and little known tracks alike. Throwing his hands up Guetta-style (or maybe it should be “Benny-style”), Benassi goes deep into the mature electro house genre off the bat with fun tracks like East & Young’s “Coda” and Kill the Buzz’s “Party Hard” (only a few weeks old). The intensity and bass go up a notch or seven, and it seems to me like they’ve saved the best noise for Benny. The first part of his set stays hard on the new tracks, with shit like Yves V & Felguk’s “Wow,” and Dyro’s “Paradox” proving that Benny is still a man with his finger on the pulse of the world’s best dance music.
Punctuating most of the bigger moments of the show, Benassi blasts huge amounts of smoke and confetti from cannons all over the stage, making liberal-use of his party-weaponry. Knowing his fans well, Benassi hit us with versions of some of his most beloved tracks, and I think that his extensive fuckery with famed track “Cinema,” during which he played both Laidback Luke and Skrillex’s remixes, was by far one of the highest points of the show (though it was a little strange to see the man dropping dubstep). It’s obvious to see that Benny still seriously cares about what he does, beaming and throwing his hands up at almost every big track and providing a balanced, dynamic set that hit just about every spot a fan could have.
Of course, this is all building to one track. One track, that if we don’t hear it, we’re not going to leave here happy. You might say, in fact, that we’d be unsatisfied (but that’d be corny, so don’t). After a pounding, swooping hour and a half of energy and wild electric grooves, I start to hear the tell-tale beat buried deep in a house track, and the audience picks up on it just as I do. For the next fifteen minutes, Benny takes us to the brink of dropping his masterpiece over and over, tweaking the shit out of the famous vocal samples and letting it almost play before drowning it out.
Finally, after pushing us right to the edge of desire like a true master DJ Benny Benassi drops “Satisfaction,” a track so famous that even people who’ve never heard the word “electro” recognize it. Of course, this wouldn’t be Benny if he didn’t fuck around with it, which he does extensively, flipping it from a warped version of the standard “Satisfaction” melody to dubstep and back again, subvertin expectations perfectly.
A legend just left the stage. There are empty beer cans, glowsticks and confetti all over the ground.
I write a couple last-minute entries on the “Signs You’re at a Rave” list (Guy getting kicked out in the last ten minutes, check. Couples fighting while obviously wasted, check.) as Benny tells us that he’s just got one more minute, which he uses to drop what he called the “record of the year,” a gorgeous deep house track that sounds like nothing else in the night. He then gets told he can actually play one more, and we hear him talk out loud in his heavy, charming Italian accent about how hard it is to just pick one track, which he then decides on and plays until right before the drop, when they unceremoniously cut him off. Benny just smiles, claps his hands together, bows and leaves.
Before I head out of the building, I write one last entry on my rave list, which serves to punctuate the night: “A legend just left the stage. There are empty beer cans, glowsticks and confetti all over the ground. Exhausted people are heading to cars, hugging, fighting, crying and laughing. My ears are ringing.”
We have definitely been to a rave.