I’m going to have to excuse myself before I spill out the happenings of the night, because basically I enjoyed the hell out of myself, and as I sit here in front of my computer trying to put the pieces together I feel as though I need to make it clear that this review is going to be a little messy and abstract but nonetheless “downright tasty”.
I made my way to Sound-bar with the intention of getting there early enough to see Jay Prasad open. I swapped emails back and forth with Jay earlier in the week in regards to this night, and he informed me that he was opening with Kyle Szmurlo. When I arrived (which was probably close to midnight), Prasad and Szmurlo were tag teaming – 3 records each – spinning solid groovy prog house and some funky tech house. They definitely knew their role as “warmup” DJ’s. They were keeping the BPM’s down a notch and they steered clear of the usual monotonous “four to the floor” basslines, and instead they were rocking groovy 5/4 beats. I’d seen Prasad warm up for Danny Howells a few months earlier at Vision Nightclub and back then he’d also done a fine job in grooving the night early on.
** I must add in a quick side note: there aren’t too many DJ’s that I’ve seen recently in Chicago who understand the role of “warm up”. To be honest it pisses me off. You get to the club at 11 and the dance floor is empty and the opening DJ is banging out and trying to steal the show. If you’re opening, it’s important to understand the fundamental role that you have. Your role is to set the tone of the night and to create an atmosphere for the headliner. Enough said.
Zabiela came on close to 1:30am. I’m not exactly sure what time it was, because I was downstairs in the lounge area having drinks with friends, but when I resurfaced to the main floor sometime close to 1:30 Zabiela was already in charge. He began his set with the helping hand of his handy little Apple Mac (man does that thing yield a lot of power), and for almost the first hour of his set he was bumping and grooving the crowd around with the many live samples that he was sourcing from his Mac. There’s been much skepticism lately about what “live” actually constitutes. For the most part, I think “live” means that a DJ is not simply playing records, but he’s also coloring or “sprucing” up his set with samples – and in a sense he is creating new versions of original tracks by sampling over them, or he is creating his own music through the use of samples.
The track selection early on for Zabiela was definitely pushing towards more of a heavy techy breaks sound. There was never a moment that he was playing 4/4 time signatures. He kept the landscape bumpy and groovy and he was scratching and using effects to the max – and the crowd loved it. James is the type of guy who has an infectious attitude towards his performances. There’s never a time when he’s not actually smiling and you can definitely feel the reciprocation between him and the crowd.
As the night progressed, Zabiela used less sampling and focused more on CD’s. Towards the end of his set he started playing bigger prog tunes with “crowd soaking melodies” and this is where I thought he ran away with the show. I was very impressed. Zabiela showed his diversity and also his ability to rock a night from start to finish with diversity in track selection. The last 30 minutes of Zabiela’s set was a showcase of his technical skills, wowing the crowd with loops, scratching (looping scratches and layering them), and all kinds of effects “a la courtesy of his nifty pioneer effects unit”.
All in all an awesome night! Sounbar filled close to maximum capacity and Zabiela rocked it! When you look back on those clubbing nights that are filled with randomness you always find they’re the ones that were most enjoyable – and this night was definitely one of those!