Blue lazers and giant visuals collided as highly-acclaimed boogie-funk evangelist Dam-Funk wailed on a red keytar (it was awesome) in a DJ-booth window cut out of the center of a large video wall. Singing, exhorting the crowd, and introducing the next track, he was a singer, preacher, and radio DJ all in one.
Dam (aka Damon Riddick) prostheletyzed the early sounds of synth-boogie and was not the DJ who covers up his white labels or keeps his playlists a secret. Instead nearly every song was preceded by an announcement of the year and label. “1982! Maximus Records!” he shouted, so we could all have the pleasure of knowing the track he played. Dam-Funk taught his specialist subject but never felt patronizing. He mouthed along to the songs, sang along to his own instrumentals (sounding like someone trying to impersonate both Stevie Wonder and MJ and ending up sounding like neither), shot his fingers off to every beat, and acted out the lyrics to an audience of sun-burnt kids capped and backpacked, tired Bumbershoot festival-goers, a couple of candy ravers, and partiers fresh, dressed-up, and ready to get down. He lived and breathed this early '80s boogie throwback sound and during his set was the happiest person in the room.
It's not cool to like Z-Trip. He still plays ADD-afflicted, mash-up DJ sets long after everyone else stopped doing so in 2005. He scratches—no-one does this any more either—and he has a residency in Vegas. If you want to be taken seriously as a DJ, do not DJ regularly in Vegas. (It will make you enviously rich, however.) It's therefore very easy to write him off as crass, commerical, gimmicky, and enviously rich.
But none of that seemed to bother Zach Sciacca one bit as he grabbed the mic and hollered hype as the crowd suddenly swelled to populate the dancefloor and he began his set with a dubstep version of Dire Straits' “Money for Nothing.” True to form, Z-Trip played snippets of songs for a few bars with other snippets of songs layered on top of them, mixing in and out of said snippets so quickly it sounded like the DJ equivalent of channel-surfing a billion cable channels. To his credit, he's a fair talent on the turntables as he showed us later on when he decided to do a 7” vinyl-only set complete with dextrous scratching.
This is what it was like:
The crowd went absolutely bananas. People loved it from beginning to end. Whatever your thoughts on Mr. Zee, you have to admit that he unequivocally rocks the party, and you'd have to be quite the curmudgeon and/or boring purist not to join in. Not doing so would be like refusing to dance at a wedding. (Never refuse to dance at a wedding.) And is it so bad that everyone was having a great time and that at all times Z-Trip was friendly, vocal, and personable? No, it was not.
It doesn't matter that it's not cool to like Z-Trip. It doesn't matter that this verges on what Dane Cook is to comedy. It doesn't matter that this is bro-step, frat-hop, pre-Skrillex, MTV Spring Break fodder. You should just dance and have a good time and not over-think it.
It is cool to like Four Tet, however. Four Tet is the ying to Z-Trip's yang. He resides on the polar opposite of the DJ spectrum. This is the thinking man's dance music. Liking Four Tet shows you have taste. You should name-drop him whenever you feel out of your depth with your electronic music-minded friends.
Opening with the vintage drum loop and punchy bass of “Love Cry” (perhaps his most accessible track), Kieran Hebden sent walls of low end out of speakers that swallowed the glass drops and cherub whispers of the track and soon we were in pounding experimental techno territory. The After Dark faithful kept faithfully raving, even though Hebden barely looked up from his laptop the entire set (the last thing he would do on earth would be to bellow “PARTY PEOPLE!!” into the mic—he's better off ignoring everyone). The throbbing bass sounded like the purring of a 1,200-ton intergalactic steel cat as he suddenly increased the tempo to near-Gabba levels (think nosebleed techno). The changeup made the song harder to dance to; still, no other DJ is playing songs of this caliber (and tempo) right now.
Weird venue for Sunday's Bumbershoot After Dark though. Walking into the gaping Exhibition Hall in Seattle Center was not unlike finding yourself in an abandoned part of the mall. White pillars and marble flooring dreamt of one day housing a food court. I expected more of a basement-club thing with a line around the block, but instead we were dancing inside a baggage claim without the baggage claim. It should've been way darker, too. But these things are of scant importance. Bumbershoot After Dark happened and electronic music in this city advanced and grew upward and outward as a result. The venue lacked soul but the audience brought more than enough to go around.