Red Bull Thre3Style and Z-Trip at The Venue Scottsdale Last Night

As a crowd numbering more than 1,100 watched on, M2 had his hands full to say the least. While large digital screens flashed his logo (based off the old school Phoenix Suns logo) and a countdown clock ticked off his allotted 15 minutes, M2's hands flew and fluttered across turntables, mixers, and laptops. 

Brewing up his pimp party rock stew, he nimbly transitioned betwixt the ghetto swagger of Too Short's "Blow The Whistle" into the forlorn refrain of Tears for Fear's "Shout," woven together with sick-ass scratching. 

M2 slowly stoked the crowd with his mix, gaining enthusiastic cheers from his clever transitions building through his set, from the aforementioned loop of Roland Orzabal's melancholic vocals flowing into Big Boi's "Shutterbug," which flipped over to Soul II Soul's "Back to Life" and eventually Nu Shooz "I Can't Wait."

Impressing the judges with remixing acapella vocals on the fly and his clean, intricate cuts, M2 built off the old school tracks into more modern hits like Lil' Jon's "Get Outta Your Mind" and "The Time (Dirty Bit)" by The Black Eyed Peas," complimented by a healthy dose of dubstep, staccato-style scratching, and the caterwauls of the crowd.

Not everyone in the crowd was behind M2, as a chorus of boos sprang forth when he was announced as the winner, likely from a huge cadre of Chris Villa fans. The 101.5 Jamz spinster didn't place in the top three, as Versatile's DJ Astonish (an accomplished scratcher in his own right) took second and Suede resident DJ Circle claimed third. ​M2 will now move onto the Thre3Style nationals this fall in Las Vegas to battle other regional winners.

After the awards were handed out and all the booing subsided, it was time for the great godhead himself: Z-Trip. M2's set was the perfect aperitif for the evening's headlining set, as the local legend always brings plenty of old school rock and hip-hop into his oeuvre. The performance was, in a word, deft. His beat-matching skills unparalleled, his mixes phenomenal. 

For example, the thunderous riff and Robert Plant's guttural bursts from Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" were seamlessly paired with portions of Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise," or his mating of LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" and Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name." Even more astounding is the fact its all done on the fly, including when he drops in vintage cuts and quotes from retro source material, one of his trademarks. In the case of last night's gig, Z-Trip dusted off the chorus from Mark Lindsay's 1969 hit "Arizona" to start things out (complete with video of our state flag waving on digital backdrops, and audio of Phoenix Suns announcer Al McCoy. 

While it was likely done for a cheap pop from his old stomping ground, let it never be said that Z-Trip doesn't embrace his home state, even in these post-SB1070 era of Soundstrikes and whatnot. He also trotted out one of his old cohorts. 

"Tonight wouldn't be special if I didn't do something special, 'cause this is my homebase," Z-Trip stated before bringing his old Bombshelter partner Radar up to the stage, who dished out an deafeningly insane solo scratching session. 

Z-Trip (born Zach Sciacca) wrapped up his hour-long set by playing Ozzy's "Mama, I'm Coming Home" and dedicating it to his mama, who was watching from the balcony alongside Pickster One. Sure, a longer set would've been nicer, but Mrs. Sciacca was probably up way past her bedtime. If you inexplicably wanted a schmaltzy ending to this blog, here it is: Z-Trip came up to the balcony to hug his mother after the set. 

Meanwhile, M2 had long since left the building with his record-shaped trophy in hand. Was he planning on popping bottles and celebrating?

"Nah, I gotta get over to Dirty Pretty and work Groove Candy," he replied. "Then I'm working at the station tomorrow."

So will his newly won mantle of Thre3Style's local champ (and possibly more) help nab a bigger payday at Power 98.3? 

"We'll see," M2 says, laughing. "I'll definitely be asking about it."

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: Red Bull Thre3Style featuring Z-Trip at The Venue Scottsdale

Personal Bias: My favorite M2 side mixtape was 2006's James Brown tribute.

The Crowd: Old school coolios, ghetto princesses, barrio boys, whiggers, hipsters, and members of Z-Trip's clan. Oh, and a scores of local DJs were in the house to witness the event (just off the top of my head I saw Al Page, Sean Watson, Bigie, Tranzit, and William Reed)

Overheard in the Crowd: A local dance party promoter continuously (and rather drunkenly) kept harassing me towards the end of the evening, annoyingly claiming he's going to be the third member of the Bombshelter DJs and asking me to place the following statement in this blog: "DJ Pauly D. from Jersey Shore is better than Z-Trip and any DJ in the world."

Random Notebook Dump: Some club promoters would kill for this kind of crowd on a Thursday.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.