At the end of a gross rainy day in DC, U Street Music Hall opened its doors to a five-DJ lineup sponsored by the Red Bull Music Academy. Two tours converged for one special night, featuring headliner Daedelus and a couple of promising youngsters that include a number of the Wedidit electronic music collective: LA’s Shlohmo and D33J and Toronto’s Ryan Hemsworth. A late show for a Wednesday lineup as stacked as this, D33J kicked things off as people slowly filtered in. When I arrived 15 minutes into his set, my head was bobbing involuntarily before I’d even taken off my jacket. Though his set was a bit uneven, D33J dropped some absolute gems, including a finale that had Ryan Hemsworth nodding along as he set up for leg #2. Sadly, I didn’t recognize his surprisingly amazing rework of Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’, but the rest of the lineup would feature enough novelty remixes to satisfy.
Hemsworth is a nerdy white kid from Canada who can’t dance, but his taste and collection of classic R&B remixes is the epitome of cool. I’m not terribly good at trainspotting, but even I could recognize a ton of stems Hemsworth worked with. He began the set boldly by simply playing Mya’s 2003 anthem “My Love Is Like… Wo” and within five minutes he’d already dropped Ghost Town DJs’ incredible 1996 dance track “My Boo”. My attention was fully his.
Over the next hour, Hemsworth explored a myriad selection of genres – trap, dub, tech-house, R&B, 8Bit – and seamlessly wove a half dozen other mind-blowing samples or re-works. Usher’s ‘Confessions Pt. 2’ was given a deep hyphy bass rumble before melting away to Hemsworth’s own simple remix of Frank Ocean’s ‘Thinkin Bout You’ – all prelude to an instrumental interlude featuring the music from The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Somehow, he even managed to drop an edit of R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in a Closet’ without anyone batting an eye. Hemsworth’s skill at selecting edits and remixing tracks is highly impressive, and it will be worth keeping an eye out for future official releases. By the time he finished with his suburb remix of Rhye’s new single ‘Open’, the crowd was dancing unabashedly and primed for Shlohmo.
Unfortunately, technical difficulties would delay Shlohmo’s set by about ten minutes before it opened with a chest-vibrating bass rumble. This wasn’t the Shlohmo from your headphone listens – delicately balancing between soft and loud to accentuate emotion – no, this was Shlohmo ready for a rave. The first half of Shlohmo’s set didn’t range much – huge buzzing bass and a few clicks and clacks syncopated over unintelligibly distorted vocal samples. The pivot was mid-set as the melody of ‘Rained The Whole Time’ emerged and eventually led into Shlohmo’s excellent remix of LOL Boys – ‘Changes’. These two tracks keyed an energetic second half of his set, which featured more interesting percussion, melody, and occasional deviations in volume and intensity that heightened the mood. The crowd, which had swelled by the end of Shlohmo’s set, responded very positively, rewarding the DJ with that rarest of DC treats – moving feet dancing in the audience. He closed with some highly energetic bass music – it was an unfamiliar Shlohmo for those that listen on headphones and one that I didn’t altogether want, but his skill as a DJ and ability to move a dance floor are unquestionable.