Live: Boiler Room NYC with Flying Lotus, Just Blaze, Questlove, Flatbush Zombies
Better Than: Watching the Internet.
Boilerroom.tv has become a sort of voyeuristic dream party for DJ nerds over the last year or so. Proudly self-branded as "the world's leading underground music show," the website is sponsored by a handful of lifestyle-branded music partnerships - Red Bull Music Academy, Red Stripe Make Sessions, Warehouse Project - and solicits dance-friendly labels and musicians to curate very intimate, invite-only parties with often mind-blowing lineups. The shows are streamed live and at times, result in an Internet party where DJs and partygoers inside the venue and those at home chat via Twitter and forums as the sets play out. Last night, we were a part of the lucky group that made it inside Boiler Room's NYC stop, where Flying Lotus, Questlove, Just Blaze, and Flatbush Zombies (among others) played at a tiny warehouse venue tucked under the WIlliamsburg bridge. And while we were in the thick of it, chances are you would have seen more if you were watching at home.
That is, the room was set up so that the DJs played to a wall of cameras with their back to the crowd in the room. (For video streaming purposes.) It was fine, though, and we watched Questlove's signature Afro pick bob back and forth over a sea of heads as he set the tone; that tonight was about hip-hop. Understated and funky, the Roots drummer paid homage to J Dilla with Robert Glasper's unreleased "Dillalude #2,"a downtempo jazzy tribute that unfolds into a ghostly echoing throwback to Common's Dilla-produced hit "The Light." Just Blaze went a different route, managing to play a hearty portion of his own rap bangers in his squeezed 30-minute set. Joe Budden's "Pump It Up," Cam'ron's "Oh Boy," and Beanie / Freeway's "Roc the Mic" made appearances alongside songs that would have made his newer, younger, Fool's Gold following dance audiences break out their neon with their jerseys. (RL Grime & Salva's remix of "Mercy" and Flosstradamus' remix of Major Lazer's "Original Don" included here.)
Watching Just Blaze's transition into the current, youth-driven trends of dance-by-way-of-rap was an interesting contrast to the actually-young rappers on the night's agenda. Joey Bada$$, a 17 year-old from Brooklyn whose recently released 1999 mixtape sounds more like 1996 live, was best when channeling the clever,
no-fuss rap flows of his proclaimed idols, Biggie and Tupac rather than the on-trend riotous hollering of his Pro Era collective. (Bonus points for the beef-starting "Survival Tactics" zing: "Tell the Based God/ Don't quit his day job.") And while the Underacheivers might have been the most highly anticipated live act (they're the newest signees to Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label), Flatbush Zombies won the rap-posse award of the night. They broke into a fight with a bystander within the
first verse of their first song. (Quickly breaking out of it by shouting "Peace! Peace!" and then acting like nothing ever happened.)
As expected, Flying Lotus was the true highlight of the night. By the time he took over the turntables, the room was filled with smoke puffed out by those filled with enough whiskey from the open-bar to embrace the warehouse lifestyle. Perched by that bar was Oliver Sim of the xx, who charmingly smiled and dodged off the girls who whispered at him about their fandom. "It's my day off," was a common response to picture requests. At the front of the room, Thundercat and Flying Lotus traded off gorgeously choreographing all of the night's different factions into something that made sense, mixing psychadelic-swirls of synths (of what sounded like a warbled Who guitar riff to a friend standing nearby) with the shrill hi-hats of trap and knocking bass. What had started as a room of people watching the back of a DJ's head had now changed into a grooving, quicksand of unreleased material. We left content, foggy-headed from smoke and body-heat, as the DJ's set was cut a bit short due to time constraints. And while copping a smoke machine and watching Boiler Room in bed sounds like the ideal Monday night in, being in a room with a couple of hip-hop icons and a couple of XX's isn't so bad either.
Critical Bias: Trip-hop isn't dead and trap-rave is the future.
Overheard: "THIS IS THAT UNRELEASED SHIT." Many times.
Random Notebook Dump: SBTRKT and Kitty Pryde were also in the building.