Tuesday, August 01, 2006

superman returns


Nathan McWaters ~ Dallas, TX - 06.30.06 - After a month stuck in the Mojave Desert for NTC Rotation 06-07, which extended from mid-May up through mid-June, it could be pretty well said that a good portion of the Texas club scene for this summer was thoroughly wasted by my being absent for it. Having known in advance of some of the acts that would be rolling through the Lone Star State prior to my departure, it caused me no inconsiderable amount of grief to have to bid them all adieu and farewell before I ever got to start calculating ticket costs and fuel prices. Digweed, Gabriel & Dresden, Tiesto, Second Sun, D:Fuse, BT, and James Lavelle all rolled through one club or another during that four-week span of forever, and I was painfully aware of all of them the entire time. By the time it was announced that we would be returning a week sooner than originally planned, I had written off June as being a done deal, with no more delights to behold to wash away the interior slimes of discontent and disappointment even as I scrubbed the sand and salt off of my exterior. Texas, on the other hand, had one more ace up its sleeve before the month closed out, when my beloved Dallas-based Lizard Lounge unleashed its Superman Returns Electronic Motion Picture Premiere Party, featuring one of Germany’s biggest trance/tech-house duos, Cosmic Gate, tag-teamed as headliners with England’s drum & bass dynamo Adam F, and local boy on the durty beats Lance Cashion, all for the last day of the month. June was not a goner for me after all.

Lizard Lounge went into this loaded for bear. FIRE would host both Adam F and Cosmic Gate as the headlining acts, with local support from residents Dylan StClair and Frankieboy; the Video Bar would cater to the industrial tech crowd with Greenwave, DJ Titan, Jeff Spock, and Pollux Rockstar on its dark decks; and the oft-closed rooftop open-air venue would be kicked open and helmed by Nodafunk, James Nao, Jayson Gold, and Lance Cashion. Made perfect sense to me, except for the part where the trance act is immediately followed by the DnB act on FIRE. I had faith it would work itself out in the end, as Lizard Lounge had already sold more presales for this event than they had even for Above & Beyond, and that was no small crowd. The club was packing itself grotesquely as I arrived, and I knew then that this would be truly huge. I also knew that covering this was going to be a pain in the ass, having to devote attention to all three sectors of Lizard Lounge. I eased up the pressure by mostly avoiding the Video Bar’s gothic offerings, leaving only the rooftop and FIRE to keep eyes and ears on.

FIRE was cooking as soon as I walked through the door. Dylan StClair and Frankieboy were trading time on the decks, and trading it well. Their set was a nice blend of progressive house and tech-house, perfect for warming up the expanding crowd for Cosmic Gate. If all of the stage props set up to make the DJ booth look like Metropolis bothered either of their comfort zones, I couldn’t tell, but they definitely bothered me as my favorite area of photography was roped off with police tape and orange road cones. The FIRE residents had the crowd well in hand and on the dance floor before the main push for Cosmic Gate got there about half an hour after I did, and it was fairly safe to say that FIRE reached capacity crowd nearly an hour before Cosmic Gate was supposed to start. I went upstairs to see how things were going on the roof, and encountered Nodafunk spinning a pretty hard house set as an opener for Lance Cashion, but there was definitely something twiggy about the whole thing and how it was sounding. I had never heard Nodafunk spin before, but I knew his name by reputation and logic suggested that he did know how to beatmatch, so I remained stumped as to why everywhere except the staircase sounded like it was off-beat with the rest of the set. He seemed a little frustrated by it as well but kept right on rolling in spite of whatever was ailing the set.

Crossing back downstairs and through the Video Bar’s almost frenetic industrial-tech being laid on by Jeff Spock, it became clear that the Cosmic Gate crowd had arrived in force, as movement became a serious liability between the bars and the FIRE floor. There was also somebody laying on the smoke dispenser button pretty hard, rendering much photo footage impossible with a flash. Lance arrived at about 2230, grabbed beer and groupies, and headed upstairs to relieve Nodafunk from his trials with the equipment. Having already been up there recently, I decided to wait it out downstairs skulking on one of the side staircases for Cosmic Gate’s arrival. At 2300, Dylan and Frankieboy turned over the decks to the Dynamic Duo from Deutschland, who promptly unleashed their tech-trance repertoire on the assembled masses.
The floor of FIRE was packed to the brim, as was the VIP deck upstairs, and Cosmic Gate was obviously on a high from Germany beating Argentina in that afternoon’s World Cup match, because they pulled no punches. They didn’t throw down the happy Ferry Corsten-esque trance set; this was deep trance blended with that spook-harsh dark tech that German DJs seem to flock towards; Rammstein meets Paul van Dyk. No upbeat melodics, just hard tech. The Lounge reached capacity before the first twenty minutes were up, and everyone was on the floor that could fit there. Room to maneuver became scarce, so it was a while before I was able to struggle through the throng to head upstairs to check on Lance.

Upstairs were the calmer crowd. Lance Cashion tends for deep trance sets punctuated by the occasional obscure European prog track or three, so those not interested in European tech-trance or industrial/electro went to the rooftop. As it turns out, the equipment no more loved Lance than it did Nodafunk. After some troubleshooting, it was determined that the culprit was a blown amp inside one of the rooftop speakers, forcing the mixer to compensate for the time delay. It sounded fine on the stairs, as it had earlier, but beside the DJ booth, it was pretty ugly. Lance took it in stride and dropped his set through it anyway, though it seemed strange to have a DJ of his caliber lay down a deep trance set that sweet and have the crowd twenty feet away by the stairs because that’s where the good speakers were. Fun was being had, even if the DJ looked a little lonely.

Greenwave had taken over for Jeff Spock in the Video Bar by this point. A casual notation as I passed through it to try and fight my way back onto Cosmic Gate’s packed dance floor crossed my mind that the BPMs for the Video Bar had become fairly extreme; Greenwave was mixing drum & bass with their electro. There was no end to the crowd by this point; even the bars were filled. The darkness in FIRE combined with the overuse of the smoke machine forced me to move locations to try for pictures over and over again, all while battling glowsticks and LED light candy ravers. Life became a little easier after it became clear that no one was stopping me from getting right into the DJ’s zone of control, even if it required getting through the props. I suppose they just assumed I worked there. I took as many shots for Cosmic Gate as I did for Above & Beyond, and Adam F was still to come.

Cosmic Gate dropped tracks until 0130, and the floor stayed packed the whole run. While they never seemed to develop that personable rapport with the crowd that Above & Beyond did for their gig (neither Nic Chagall nor DJ Bossi went up and boogied with the go-go dancers, for example), Cosmic Gate still threw down a set that Dallas seemed to consume wholesale. A traffic problem delayed Adam F’s arrival on-site by about half an hour, and Cosmic Gate covered down and kept spinning, but it still seemed as they were turning it over that there was so much more they could have given that we weren’t going to get to hear. It did give them the opportunity to drop a couple of their classic tracks that we hadn’t expected to hear for a first-time Texas gig: “Fire Wire” turned out to be quite the hit in spite of its dance floor age, as was their remix of Ferry Corsten’s “Punk”.

The tables turned upon the arrival of Adam F. Without hesitation or transition, the hard trance veered into the realm of the loud and fast drum & bass that Adam F is known for; had it not been expected, it would have been quite a shock to the system. Adam must have taken it as some kind of affront for another sector of Lizard Lounge to be throwing down DnB alongside him, because he turned up FIRE’s sound set to about as high as the legal audio limit could go, and pushed the envelope to see just how many beats could be stuffed into a 60-second block of time. It’s safe to say that he out-DnB’d the Video Bar’s DnB after about three tracks. I took some photos, but I’m not a hardcore drum & bass kind of guy, so I didn’t linger there long; it was obvious that he knew what he was doing, and that was seeing how long it would take to shiver the legs right off of every DnB fan that was in Lizard Lounge. I fled back upstairs, unable to maintain with that level of frenzied beats, just in time to see Lance packing things up and Jayson Gold taking over, having been pre-warned by Nodafunk that the system up there was jacked up. He didn’t seem to mind a bit, but he’s one of those DJs that is a jack-of-all-genres, so he started out with a nice prog set that was probably going to warm up nicely into a harder trance, and ignored the blown speaker with as much disdain as a 6’6” man can.

I chatted with Lance for a bit as we made our way back downstairs; he was on his way south to Lake Travis to play a set on a boat for some pre-July 4th hoodoo and wasn’t going to stay long. Adam F was throwing down a drum & bass remix of Coldplay’s “Talk”, accelerated to about twice its normal speed, which could be felt through the stairs and up through my shoes. The floor was lightening quickly, though; it was pushing 0230 by then and the lateness was taking its toll on the crowd, not to mention that only the hardest-core DnB fanatics could keep up with what he was giving them without suffering from rickets or crowns in their teeth splitting from the resonance. I thought I knew how DnB could be, but I had never heard anything like that before. Pendulum was high on his playlist, I recognized that much; Breakbeat Kaos was being well-represented throughout. I rolled out about the same time Lance did, having fulfilled my mission to the best of my ability. In all, quite the wild ride for FIRE; not the most seamless of transitions from EDM genre to genre on the same floor, and there were several impromptu opinions about the quality of Adam F’s set, but when it’s 0300 and the floor is still covered in DnB ‘heads, all trying to shake their limbs off even though they’ve been exhausted from dancing all night, I doubt there were any serious complaints lodged.

I’m inclined to say that all objectives were met and exceeded by all, in spite of obstacles to perfection.

For more information, check out these sites:

Cosmic Gate - Germany
Adam F - England
Lance Cashion - Dallas
Dylan StClair - Dallas
Frankieboy - Dallas
Nodafunk - Dallas)
Greenwave - Dallas)
DJ Titan - Dallas
Jeff Spock - Dallas
James Nao - Dallas
Pollux Rockstar - Dallas
Jayson Gold - Dallas

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