DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist

Hollywood Bowl, June 25

By Carlie Armstrong

What began as an interestingly ethnic, slightly gimmicky evening at the Hollywood Bowl soon became a night of elaborate and masterful spinning by the likes of two giants of the mix-master realm: DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist.

African band Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars and Brazilian James Brown enthusiast Carlinhos Brown brought their individual cultural flavors to open up the event, leaving most who were not yet inebriated with slight impatience. This was, after all, a crowd yearning to hear some scratched vinyl, and the Refugee All-Stars and Carlinhos Brown simply could not appease that desire with their quirky costumes and reggae-infused world music sets – though Brown thoroughly tried to up the energy with his James Brown impersonations and strange get-up: an indian head dress and gladiator sandals.

(Photos by Carlie Armstrong)

When Shadow and Chemist did appear, however, their entrance was well-heralded by the audience and quite mighty. But, there was one more obstacle before the music started, and before the two renowned spin-masters sauntered over to their respective turntables, a short infomercial-like film blared and flashed, proclaiming little known facts and history concerning the art of spinning and its metamorphosis through the years.

In traditional Shadow style, the presentation was edgy and more than a little unforgiving, giving him a chance to bite back at critics' questions on whether DJ-ing is as creative or skillful as traditional means of music making. Before the night was over, Cut Chemist and Shadow proved to any doubters the wealth of talent and ingenuity they possessed.

The film faded, and finally the DJs began their set, quickly reaching a barrage of succulent, sensual overkill. The lights descended through the audience on to the two performers, and their music was a fusion of far-east dance music with samples by the rock group Queen.

Most genres made their way onto the DJ's turntables through the evening, from cut-up chunks of The Foo Fighters ‘Everlong,’ to a short pseudo-song lamenting the plight of a lovesick jukebox. Shadow stuck, surprisingly, to more instrumental licks, sometimes incorporating old radio spots into his mishmash of music, but he consistently stayed away from most of his newer stuff – there wasn't a trace of Bay-area influence in sight.

The visuals were as diverse and intense as the music: a well-cut combination of 50’s advertisements, bellydancing, and a spinning record on the pupil of a giant eye. Chemist and Shadow kept the energy high by pausing to rouse the audience a few times mid-show, but they also took time out to momentarily feast at a small white table on center stage, where they devoured food that had been laid out for them.

DJ shows usually suffer from the mixer being unable to leave the decks, but these guys took their spinning and scratching prowess to a portable level, strapping themselves with mini-turntables, and gallivanting around the stage like true rock stars.

Upon returning to their natural, earlier positions DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist closed out the event with true style, spinning a few more songs from their joint imaginations, a new mix-up entitled “The Hard Sell” and then sending out a cautionary scrap of advice, telling the crowd that though they “had too much cocaine tonight, having more will not help you drive home!”

–Carlie Armstrong

LA Weekly