Atmosphere—we used to call it ‘the vibe’ back in the 90s—is arguably the most important factor in determining the success of any live music event. Atmosphere depends on a number of elements aligning to make a party magical or mediocre: venue, crowd, sound, alcohol, weather, lunar cycle, success of random local sports teams, and, most crucially, the music.
So what does this have to do with the show on February 20th? Well, as I pulled up a chair at Fairmount Theatre at 8:15pm, I noticed that one of the headliners, bass music don Tsuruda, was already on stage performing in front of a half-empty venue. As I’ve mentioned before, people are used to showing up at 8pm for a rock show, but in the electronic music world an 8pm start is almost unheard of. As a result, the dance floor wasn’t busy for the first half of Tsuruda’s set, and the atmosphere was as dead as a fish out of water.
As the L.A.-based producer’s set progressed, the crowd began arriving and the vibe improved considerably. I first heard Tsuruda’s experimental and heavy beats through Ivy Lab, a UK crew that champions the dark and heavy side of bass music. Sadly, I missed his set at last year’s Valhalla Sound Circus so there was no way I was missing him again.
Tsuruda released two full-length albums in 2017; Move on the Division label, and the self-released Internet Slaps vol. 1. His live performance, like the albums, was deep enough to melt faces, suitably eerie for this rainy and dreary February night, and an eclectic melting pot of trap, glitch, and grime. Tsuruda’s long hair that covered his face during his set suited the music, which at times sounded like the electronic equivalent of heavy metal.
Next up, one of the most prolific trap and bass music producers, Mr. Carmack, whose motto is to “make music like no one’s listening.” Luckily, though, people were listening because the Fairmount was busy and the atmosphere was crackling when he took over from Tsuruda. After thanking the crowd for showing up on a Tuesday, Mr. Carmack began singing over dreamy and deep ambient synth sounds. It was a really chill introduction for a producer who is known for blurring the lines between hip hop and dance music.
For the second song, Mr. Carmack was joined onstage by Goodnight Cody from Team Supreme, who played live bass for the rest of the set. Hats are, it seems, part of the uniform on the Original Sound Tour; Mr. Carmack wore a toque, and Cody wore a classic black hat. With the energy of the music and the crowd building, Mr. Carmack pulled out a trumpet and played horn on a few tracks, while on other songs he played keys. Mr. Carmack showed off his musical talent and chops by using live instruments and creating a deep and jazzy sound on tracks like “Humbled” and “Love Love.” But of course a Mr. Carmack performance must include some hard-hitting trap bangers, and classics like “DIMEPEICE122” had the venue buzzing.
When his set ended, the night was still early and I was hoping that Tsuruda would return to the stage for more underground, bass-heavy business. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and instead Montreal Fool’s Gold artist Shash’U took over for a short set of underground hip hop. I stayed for only a few tracks by local artist as it was, after all, a Tuesday night and I didn’t mind getting home before midnight for once.
Written by Rob Coles
*edited by Kate Erickson