North Coast Music Festival 2011, Saturday: Carl Cox
“If you’re just joining us now,” a fake newscaster announced to the people packed around the Red Bull Stage at dusk, “Carl Cox is in the building.” And so started the British DJ's celebratory and commanding set, one in which the house and techno veteran displayed an uncanny command of the beat and the crowd.
A nightclub and rave veteran, Cox has been spinning records since the '80s, and his decades of experience were on full display as he took North Coast on a whirlwind tour of cosmopolitan house. Cox worked two decks and a range of drum machines, showcasing an old-school approach that required no laptop. One thing that set Cox apart from some of the other globe-trotting DJs at North Coast was the breadth and variance of his beats. While he wasn’t above dropping a four-on-the-floor head-buster, the passages leading up to those earth-shaking moments were marked by Latin and disco rhythms. He also used vocal samples to enhance and flavor the songs, never in a distracting or referential manner. This use of the “faceless soul diva” vocals links Cox back to the first wave of house and techno DJs, and stands in contrast to some of the more pop-culture obsessed acts today.
When a recognizable clip did come into play, it was Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of,” which served to pump up the crowd and provide a small break from all the squealing and thudding. Cox made his job look terribly easy. It isn't.