By: Joseph Golfen
There is something eerie about people intently staring at a DJ play his set. Records are meant to be spun in high booths at dark clubs where DJ’s can feel free to shuffle through their stack of vinyl and stammer the beat, without looking terribly interesting. They can also feel free to do that hold-the-headphone-to-your-head-with-your-shoulder thing they seem to like so much. But being in a crowd where everyone’s slamming around watching a guy spin records gets a little old.
That’s not to say that RJD2 didn’t put on a good show, though it took him a while to take the stage. A local DJ spun some forgettable hip-hop for over an hour before opener Happy Chichester sat himself behind a red keyboard. This sunny one-man-band belted out an interesting mix of songs, spanning from blue-eyed Stevie Wonder numbers to acoustic jams about his hometown. Chichester kicked up his acoustic guitar work with voice effects and beat boxes.
But the mood shifted considertably when experimental rap group Dälek stepped up to the mic. Stage lights glowed red, and thick fog filled the darkened venue, while aggressive rap traveled across a sea of ultra-heavy beats.
Although they ate Dälek’s set up, the crowd seemed restless by the time RJD2 started setting up.
They had been waiting for three hours.
But all their energy seemed to return as the Columbus-based producer/DJ, born Ramble John "RJ" Krohn, spun an eclectic mix of sweaty techno, packing every beat with as much sound and samples as he could.
Though he began on stage alone behind a wall on turntables, RJD2 slowly brought his live band out to play. A scuffy drummer was the first to appear, pounding out a blistering beat along with synthesized wizardry. A nerdy keyboard/bassist and multi-instrumentalist Happy Chichester joined RJD2 next, completing the group.
With his guys in place, Krohn picked up the guitar and let loose some poppy rock tunes, a stark departure from his typical hip-hop laced fare. This all lines up with Krohn’s recent label change and his new rock album on which he plays every instrument. The crowd danced and cheered along with these songs, which were still filled with funky organs and pedal heavy guitar solos. But after a few tunes, crys of “play more techno!” began to drift towards stage.
Not one to disappoint, RJD2 took his place behind the turntables, though his band stayed put, adding their instruments to the intriquite beats to create a very unique sound. The crowd danced and crawled all over each other as the group ran through singles like “Work It Out” and “Ghostrider,” the latter of which is the plinky tune in those Wells Fargo commercials.
The only problem with having Krohn’s in the back again was that the group was left without a frontman, causing them to lose any stage presence. Though the crowd was into it and the music was strong, I couldn't help but to feel like the venue wasn’t right. This wasn’t music to be watched, it was music to be felt. This was fast-paced dance music, and while some spectators tried to move along with it, the crowded floor didn’t always mesh with so much movement. Just ask the guy who staggered by with a palm full of blood from a busted nose.
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It was well passed midnight by the time RJD2 said his good byes, though he was coaxed into a encore by shouted pleas for "one more song," which he gladly provided. Though he might need to work on his front man swagger if he’s going to play these kind of shows, RJD2 proved that he still has enough skill to make every eye in the room turn his way.
Personal Bias: Dancing around at a show like this is completely acceptable. Just make sure your moves don’t include hitting me in the ass every couple of seconds; it happened more than I’d like to admit. Also, make sure you wear deodorant if you’re going to get that close to people.
Crowd Detail: If you watched the crowd for a couple of seconds, you’d see some really drunk guy wander out of crowd and crash into an unsuspecting girl talking to her friends. It happened almost constantly.
Random Detail: As soon as RJD2 hit his first bassy note, a series of wacky, sped-up clips from old horror movies and Adult Swim cartoons played on a screen near the stage.