First, you notice the beats. The melodies pulsating in the air have a hypnotic quality, and their rhythms command your hips to move, your feet to shuffle, and your arms to be thrown in the air. It's such feel-good electronic dance music that fist pumping is forgivable, but standing still is not.
Then, you take in the crowd. The fans are diverse: teenage candy kids with chunky plastic charm bracelets; hot, starstruck 20-somethings donning miniskirts and baring cleavage; backpack-wearing, glowstick-waving ravers; and the occasional middle-aged man, clearly attending for himself and not just as a chaperone, nodding his head along to the music.
They've got one thing in common. They are here to see the performer sporting a massive mouse head. There are the giant ears atop two glowing eyes and a wide, bright smile, along with lights attached to his dome that blink in time with the beats.
Deadmau5 is scheduled to perform Thursday, September 1, at Phoenix Convention Center.
Hold on a second. What?
Yes. Up on the platform is Canadian-born producer/DJ Joel Zimmerman, better known as deadmau5 ("dead mouse"). But this isn't Disneyland; it's a party dominated by one of the most recognizable figures in modern electronic music.
That massive noggin may be a can't-miss gimmick, but the man underneath the mask doesn't need it to dictate an audience's grooving. Since donning the mask in 2005, Zimmerman has been entertaining dance music lovers with his catchy tunes.
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He has released three albums and numerous singles, pushing the DJ/club scene (just don't call him a DJ) into the mainstream as he's filled tents as a headliner at prominent music festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza.
Those looking to chart Zimmerman's command of the dance floor simply need to pop in the recently released Live @ Earl's Court DVD, which finds Zimmerman performing to 19,000 sweaty Londoners.
For all his notoriety, Zimmerman's remained charmingly odd. He loves his cat, Professor Meowingtons, so much as to shout him out on his current tour, the Meowingtons Hax Tour. And though he's not opposed to dating insanely hot models and the like, he popped up on Internet cooking show Epic Meal Time, on which he helped build and devour a giant grilled cheese tower.
Keeping with his rodent theme, cheese seems to be a recurring theme for Zimmerman. When he let his admirers enter a contest to design his next "mau5head," the winning version had Swiss cheese ears.