Lollapalooza 2011, Sunday: Deadmau5
DJs will attest to having been caught in this situation before. Either due to absent-mindedness, distraction or technical difficulties, you find yourself frantically trying to cue up and mix in a new song as the tail end of the one bumping out of the system is winding down. All that's left is a steady thump, maybe a few atmospherics, and you can feel the energy draining from the room. After last night's headliner slot, deadmau5, the rodent-headed electro behemoth who's been outspoken about his disdain for DJs and what they do, also knows this situation too, too well. The majority of the audience may not have picked up on the the cause behind those dips in intensity, but I guarantee, deep in their gut, they knew that this was not a deadmau5 who was firing on all cylinders. Even my friend, who is not a DJ, commented at one point, "I'm not sure what it is, but he just doesn't have the same energy as the last time I saw him." In dance music, where the strings of control aren't as obvious as hearing amps blow or catching missed timing between band members, you sense the disconnect more than you see it.
I'm not saying the cause for deadmau5's woes was distraction or carelessness. Rather, it was intense rain, which led to some technical difficulties for the debut of his new stage set-up. And it was an impressive set-up. Building on the cube show he's been doing for the past few tours, the mau5, a.k.a. Joel Zimmerman, was standing atop the a grand light-adorned podium surrounded by three 3D Tetris-looking props that, as the show progressed, added great new dimension to his light show. They raised and lowered depending on the song and blasted out an array of cogs, spirals, strobes and mau5s. As far as arena-worthy touring dance acts go, there really are few that can top deadmau5. Of course there's Daft Punk, but aside from that, not even the Chemical Brothers, who blew me away at last year's North Coast Music Festival, have a visual spectacle that can rival what Zimmerman did last night. When things were working properly, his LED mau5head even sang along to the songs, which is a small detail compared to the rest of the sensory overload, but super cool all the same.
Unfortunately, as I made my way to the stage in the midst of the second torrential downpour of the evening, things were already amiss. As I arrived, Zimmerman was already headless—sans the mau5head, that is—and we heard something to the tune of "Fuck this, this shit sucks" booming out of the loudspeakers alongside his barrage of rave-ready beats. Interviewing Zimmerman prior to the show, he hinted that there were a lot of moving parts meant to go into his show, so it's unfortunate that the weather threw a wrench in his works. Given that, his very vocal frustrations can easily be excused. And just like everyone else caught having to improvise and go with the flow given all that water, Zimmerman and his show went on. Sure, the mau5head came on and off so he could keep his apparatus in motion, but the mud-caked weekend warriors on the north field didn't mind. They carried on with ever-enthusiastic fist pumping, puddle stomping and glow stick twirling, as Zimmerman hammered through anthems like the electro freakout "Some Chords" and crowd-exciter "Ghosts N Stuff." The set got a much-needed injection from live vocalist Sofi, who ran out on stage in a glittering hoodie towards the end and pumped up the soggy masses with "One Trick Pony" and "Sofi Needs a Ladder."
At the end of a three-day marathon weekend, Zimmerman may have hit a few snags on the way, but he held his own, stunned us into submission with his kaleidoscopic rainbow of sights—and rather than send us off with a bang, he sent us off banging.