This wild unpredictability in crowd attendance has rightfully scared off the majority of Cleveland's promoters, making quality shows for lovers of dance music few and far between lately. So it was with surprise, then, that I saw a blog post advertising a Matias Aguayo show on a Thursday night in early March. Your average Browns-jersey-wearing Clevelander has probably never heard of the Kompakt label, let alone its most eclectic artist—the Chilean born, Cologne-bred cultivator of South American techno. The question was then (with a nagging sense of trepidation), would the factors weigh in our favor this time? Or would this be another nail in the coffin of electronic music aficionado-ism in Cleveland?
Photo credit: Christopher Thomarios
The day of the show arrived bearing gifts: The weather forecast promised uncharacteristic highs in the 60s and plenty of sun. The warmth held as the sun went down, and local favorite Jimi Tsang dropped the needle on some melodic techno as the early guests milled about the bar. As Tsang progressed from the deeper sections of his record crate, the empty spaces in the low-ceilinged basement of Touch Supper Club were filled by faces unknown to the usual scene fixtures.
Aguayo made his opening address in the form of a sparse conga beat accompanied by his echo-laden vocals, slide whistle accents and live percussion. When he finally dropped the bass after a lengthy build-up, the eyes and ears of those in Touch's basement were focused solely on enjoying the performance. Aguayo's showmanship was easy to appreciate; he tirelessly improvised new rhythms and harmonies to almost every track he played. One notable highlight was the transition of the classic "Drums and Feathers" into his newer "Walter Neff," after which Aguayo took the mic out into dance floor.
A few people remarked on the contrast of this performance to the stoic introversion of many modern DJ sets. There is a time to let the music speak for itself, but sometimes a unique performance is needed to both cleanse the palate of the serious listener and open the door to a larger group of listeners. So why did this night work? Was it the weather? The promotion? The performance? Cleveland needed all three. And, in this case, got just what it needed.