Joel Zimmerman aka Deadmau5 played 2.5 concerts at the 9:30 Club last week. After delivering stunning shows on Wednesday and Thursday nights, Deadmau5′ set on Friday night was cut short when he vomited and passed out on-stage. Immediately after his performance the night before, Deadmau5 posted “God damn… What’s wrong with me now? Ugh… Me no feely so good” on Twitter. Sources indicate that on Friday Zimmerman had been vomiting back-stage before the show and that he tried to tough it out before collapsing. After passing out, Zimmerman was immediately hospitalized, diagnosed with exhaustion, and the next day it was announced that the remainder of his world tour has been canceled.*
I was not at the Friday night show. I was, however, at the concerts on Wednesday and Thursday night to witness the Deadmau5 techno-spectacle road-show first hand. Since debuting his new stage show at the Coachella Music Festival back in April, Deadmau5 has been touring hard around the world with an incredible show that blends electronic music and digital visuals better than almost anything else I have seen.** His aggressive campaign to take the crown for best electro-concert experience has been relentless and I’m afraid has now taken its physical toll on him. With each show, Deadmau5 makes his case for best dance concert experience with an astonishing display of visual fireworks that envelopes and overwhelms you while his bass-heavy House/Electro beats toy with you like a sadistic cat would a dead mouse. For fans of performance spectacle, the tour is a visual feast. For dance music fans, Deadmau5′ current tour is about as close to nirvana as it gets.
The centerpiece of Deamau5′ show is a custom built, high-tech crow’s nest, fashioned to look like a cube standing on one of its corner tips. This massive thing sits in the center of the stage towering over the audience; it is from here that Deadmau5 unleashes his equally massive breaks and beats as he stands atop the Cube that houses and conceals all of his gear. The Cube is constructed out of some miracle material that acts as both a high-def digital screen and as a light projection system. Through-out both concerts the Cube was used to display all manner of crazed dancing graphics and to fire intense beams of light out at the audience. The Cube is the kind of cool concert prop that leaves a lasting impression long after you’ve seen it. I am sure that for the last several days, there have been concert attendees, all over DC, struggling to find words to describe this insane Cube to their friends and co-workers. It is really something special and had to be seen in person to fully comprehend how awesome a device it actually is. Since not even my words can really capture the thing, please enjoy our photos, Max and I tried our best to capture “Deadmau5′ incredible Cube”.
The Cube was not the only trick Deadmau5 had up his sleeve though. Taking full advantage of of the performance space, the Cube was flanked on both sides of the stage by two huge light cannon arrays. Behind the Cube, a gigantic LED-wall stretched across the stage from end-to-end and floor-to-ceiling. As the light cannons fired off their mulit-colored salvos, the LED-wall was alive with sci-fi imagery, trippy psychedelic kaleidoscopes, and digitally generated solar systems. When all of these elements came together it was truly a spectacular sight to behold. One of the visual high-points of the show was when green tentacles/vines began growing out of the base of the Cube. They started at the bottom of the Cube, then grew up around it, almost enveloping Deadmau5 before growing past him and continuing to grow up the wall behind him. Now Deadmau5′ famous mouse-ear mask was in silhouette against massive 30-foot tall tentacles that began to frantically wave around and dance in time with the music. As the tentacles reached their full-frenzy, the light cannons exploded like an H-bomb searing the audience’s retinas while bathing everyone dancing in heavenly white light.
Musically the two nights were very similar. Deadmau5′ set list was about the same featuring mostly vocal-free reconstructions of some of his recorded work and some only available live pieces. The biggest difference between Wednesday night and Thursday night was the volume. Both nights provided for booming dance parties, but it was Thursday night’s show that felt the more visceral of the two. Maybe it took a night for Zimmerman to settle into the 9:30 Club’s sound-space because on Thursday night he was really working the club’s system beautifully. Kudos go out to however engineered that show because it was one of the best-sounding electronic shows I have heard there since Kraftwerk (night two) in 2005.
The crowd on both nights was composed of mostly enthusiastic kids who were there to dance their tails off; which they did in droves while they ate up the Deadmau5 spectacle with a spoon. I was surrounded by people literally “oooh and ahhh”-ing with each new visual or bass-heavy treat. One of the better concert gimmick products I have seen in awhile was purchased and worn in great abundance. For sale at the merchandise booth were glow-stick mouse-ears, which quickly filled up the club space as hundreds of dance fans donned them. It put a smile on my face looking down from the balcony at all of the glowing mouse-ears jumping up and down in unison on the dance-floor.
By the end of both concerts everyone in the club, including myself, was dancing or doing their best attempt to. Deadmau5 orchestrated his sets to build higher and higher, before totally throwing down the dance gauntlet with his biggest hits like ‘Moar Ghosts N Stuff’ and ‘FML’; both of which went over like gangbusters sending the club into full-on rave territory. His set structure really was quite brilliant as it made the urge to dance nearly irresistible for just about everyone in attendance. Musically, Deadmau5 met the rubric for a successful dance concert by getting the house moving its feet. Visually, he surpassed most performers regardless of genre by investing in and planning, perhaps, the most visually stunning show of the year. When you combine these two victories, I am not quite sure Deadmau5 wins the crown for best visual electronic concert ever, but he certainly deserves an honorable mention.
* Get well soon Deadmau5!
** The crown is currently held by Daft Punk’s pyramid tour (in popular opinion) or by Kraftwerk’s mid-00′s tours (IMHO).