Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Better Than: the Sahara Tent at Coachella.
Avicii, the baby-faced boy king of the new EDM generation, brought the house down last night with a relentlessly aggressive set that found the floor of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium bouncing with massive beats. The first of the Swedish producer's three night run of shows at the venue brought out a brightly dressed youth parade of fans, most of whom appeared to be roughly the same age as 22-year-old DJ and many of whom were dressed to impress in various incarnations of the standard EDM uniform: sequined skirts, tutus, tube dresses, tank tops on dudes, a few popped collar polos and jorts -- lots and lots of jorts.
With various pat downs, checkpoints and prevalent security, getting in wasn't dissimilar to entering a major music festival. But the kids didn't seem to mind handing over their water bottles, lighters and suspect packs of gum. In exchange, they had the opportunity to drink Red Bull and dance their asses off in the sweaty pit where most of the sold out crowd resided throughout the show.
Avicii, née Tim Bergling, began his set at 9:30 with a now signature mix of his own "Fade Into Darkness" and The Who's "Baba O'Reilly." And with that siren call of teenage wasteland, it was on. The nearly two hour set flowed from house to trance to darkly menacing elemental beats that verged on dub, without ever going grimy. Avicii's ultra-produced style is sleek, and his technical efficacy was clear in the richly layered melodies and massive sub-beats that launched a thousands fist pumps in the humid hot air. Avicii's show-closing megahit "Le7els" saw fans in the lobby literally dropping their nachos on the floor and rushing back inside the theater to sing along.
It was bass that vibrated your whole body. The aural magnitude of the perpetually thrilling builds and drops would have been remarkable had Bergling played them from the top of a stack of milk crates. A strikingly sophisticated stage show, however, elevated the performance and made it clear why Avicii currently resides near the tip of the EDM-world pyramid.
The futuristic production, a collaboariton between Nocturne and Vidaroo, was a triumph of projection mapping, multi-colored directional lighting, lasers and assorted imagery. The focal point was a massive, plainly faced head, on which a perpetually shifting succession of galactic-inspired visuals were projected. At the top of this singular image stood Bergling, throwing down his set while doing a darling hand-raised shuffle dance as the show swirled around him. Really, in the sea of stage production, Bergling was often a nearly invisible afterthought, but him standing in the crown of a literally split open head made for a clear and appropriate metaphor: the shit was intended to blow your mind.
And mainstream EDM naysayers be damned, it did. Avicii, not shy to experiment with the full spectrum of electro genres, was at his most powerful when dipping into the heavier sub-bass realm that his recent work has been moving towards. These dark moments, rife with military march elements, felt both primal and highly precise. The sound of intergalactic warfare as marched to by the children of the digital age. The 3,000 person capacity Civic was a prime choice of venue, especially considering the ticket sale challenges Avicii experienced during his recent arena tour. The location's relative intimacy made the impact of the stage show that much more immediate and powerful.
And although the $60 general admission ticket price seemed hefty, it was worth the investment to see a DJ/producer so on top of his game and playing inside of a most dynamic and artistically sophisticated stage show. Yeah, it's a young crowd, but these sweaty, neon-clad kids were having the time of their fucking lives. And you can too. Tickets are still available for Sunday's show.
Personal Bias: I love jorts.
Overheard in the Crowd:"Make sure you get out of the cab BEFORE you throw up!"
Random notebook dump: veni, vedi, avicii
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