By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
7:50 p.m.: Z-Trip made three tracks for DJ Hero, he says, and his creations have lots of chaos going on. It’s locked higher up in the game, though, and we haven’t gotten to that level yet. He says that when he saw a demo, he watched some of the programmers play the game, and they were murdering it. “Really complicated stuff. There is one tune that the Scratch Perverts did that’s like an obstacle course. It starts out slow, and then gets crazier and crazier.”
7:55 p.m.: Bobby Bland vs. 2Pac is on again, and we’re going at it in the rubber match. It’s really close, actually, and though I mess up some crossfading and get a scratching cramp in my pinkie during a particularly rough spot, I recapture the momentum. As Bland repeats, “Ain’t no love” over and over, the game fades. Z-Trip has beaten me 76,350 to 75,930. I collapse on the floor and begin to weep. He kicks me in the stomach and leaves.
Friday, October 16, 10:35 p.m.: Z-Trip arrives at Rain to get ready for his midnight slot. He’s greeted by some Playboy bunnies, who award him a silver key to the Palms. Shit like that doesn’t happen in the DJ Hero game. Photographers take his picture; he’s the center of attention. The line to get in — at $30 a head — stretches into the casino. Despite the fact that I very nearly beat this dude last night, no one acknowledges me. They have no idea what I’m capable of.
Midnight: Rain holds 4,000 people, and by midnight the place is packed with Vegas-type dance clubbers — meaning lots of bachelor and bachelorette parties, lots of 20-somethings looking to get loose and laid, creepy 40-somethings watching the girls too closely, lots of people gambling with booze.
After an introduction, and a dedication to DJ AM — everybody screams and applauds — Z-Trip kicks off his residency with Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid in Full,” and the beat will not stop for the rest of the night. He moves through hits and misses, a big break-beat rhythm making odd juxtapositions sound perfectly reasonable. He runs through snippets of Spandau Ballet’s “True,” John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane,” drops Lil Wayne and Kansas (“Carry On My Wayward Son”), slowly pushing the energy and the beat higher while the crowd gets drunker and rowdier. Go-go dancers in thigh-high tube socks and butt-high short shorts dance on pedestals.
He scratches and crossfades, screams into his microphone and pushes the crowd to wave their arms. When he senses a lull, he steps it up. The beat moves faster: He drops a wild-ass drum & bass version of Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and takes the crowd somewhere far away.
The night before, after we had finished playing DJ Hero, Z-Trip had told me about his early days in Phoenix, when he was playing a little club/restaurant. The dudes who were in charge were playing old disco records, and had a whole color-coded system worked out. They understood when to lift the tempo, appreciated the trajectory of a night’s music, how the slow gave way to the gradually faster, the way some songs worked with one group of people but not another. Those little nights taught him about intuition, about when to stretch and when to concede, when to push it up.
1:45 a.m.: Z-Trip has pushed up the pace. De La Soul arrives for a cameo, and the crowd loves it. The energy is thick, the sound is crisp and loud, and the dance floor is bouncing. Is it as rich and vital as a block party or a secret rave? No. This is Vegas, and any sort of renegade vibe has been checked at the lobby entrance. It’s a tough crowd, in fact, the flaky kind that will turn on you if you don’t give them what they want. They want recognizable music, but they want to be surprised by it. They want familiarity, but not wedding music. They want to dance, but they want an edge, and throughout the night, Z-Trip makes them dance.
That didn’t happen playing DJ Hero back at the hotel, which is where I’m headed. Not that anyone notices.
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