As a teenager growing up in Northern California, the name DJ Shadow seemed synonymous with well-developed melodic beats and creativity. When asked to describe his latest album, The less you know, the better, he replied, “I don’t put out a record every year so I can see what others are doing and learn from that and see things that are happening. So I feel that a good record from me never defines 2011 — it should be totally timeless and be able to live in any era. I think I’ve done that with this one. It’s different at times […] but I don’t think it’s a huge departure from anything I’ve ever done. And I think my fans who have been there since Endtroducing will really like this one.”
A Davis, Ca native, Joshua Davis, aka DJ Shadow, has been a respected contributor to the bay area hip hop scene. On April 27th, I finally had the opportunity to witness his innovation in person. Initially, along with the rest of the crowd, I attended this show thinking that this may be the last time I would have the opportunity to see him live. His artistic energy and imaginative stage set put my insufficient expectations to shame. Here is a taste of what transpired…
Showing up a about ten minutes before Shadow went on, we were surprised to see the Knitting Factory floor only about half full. The second thing we immediately noticed was a colossal luminescent globe in the middle of the stage, with nothing else but white screens and projection equipment surrounding it. The crowd was distinctly different from most of the recent DJ shows I have been to, as there was not a glow stick or bikini in sight. The atmosphere helped build hope that we were going to experience something we have never seen before.
As we stood around waiting for something, anything, to happen, a lone figure walked onto the stage. Dressed humbly in a t-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap, he did not demand attention. Thought at first to be a sound guy, a wave of recognition came over the crowd. He immediately thanked us for letting him play tonight, introduced himself as DJ shadow, and after describing how this was his first solo tour he proclaimed, “I am not some bullshit celebrity DJ that stands up here and pushes buttons. This shit is real, live music”. Talk about demanding attention.
For this tour promoting he new album, He played his entire set from inside the giant orb, which he dubbed, “The Shadowsphere”. As an ominous voice began to repeat “does anyone remember who I am”, various psychedelic, kaleidoscopic images and video clips were projected on the white screen as well as the orb itself. To the crowds delight, the music was a good representation of many different genres of music. Images of current pop culture including Britney Spears and Justin Bieber were blown up to a house beat by graphic novel style robots. Dirty, bloodthirsty, zombies reached for human limbs to an even filthier dubstep beat. There was metal, soul, slow jams, and everything else in between. The illusion was set as we could barely make out the silhouette of the man inside, artistically spinning records, making live beats, and adding rhythmic percussion.
About halfway through his set, the globe spun around to give us a glimpse of what was happening inside. This gave us a whole new intimate perspective as we witnessed him build beats on the fly. His talent held my attention for the entire show. During his introduction, Shadow stated that everyone present would have something that they liked, as well as something that they didn’t like in the show. I accepted this statement as part of his intention to make music that he loves and is passionate about. Take it as you will.
This show in Reno was the second to last show with The Shadowsphere. If you unfortunately missed this tour, he mentioned that he and his crew were going to head back to the bay area to keep the creative juices flowing. Shadow left us with the promise of a larger, brighter, more innovative show experience. Seeing that this ambitious show will be tough to beat, I am truly excited to see what he has in store for us.
As we walked out, completely in awe of what we had just witnessed, we were met by Fresh Bakin’ producer Steve Emmerich who was passing out show posters to the crowd. As we thanked him for helping to bring this amazing artist to our area, he knowingly answered, “I told everyone it was going to be the best show”. Thanks again to Steve and the Fresh Bakin’ crew for giving us access to this amazing show. The experience is one I will not forget.
Photos By: Austin Danforth and Love Alfinda