Last week I attended a dubstep concert at the Canopy Club headlined by EDM artist, Marauda. If you are unfamiliar with dubstep, it is a sub-genre of electronic dance music characterized by heavy bass and syncopated rhythms. It originated in the early 2000s in the UK and has since gained global popularity, known for its distinctive “wobble” bass sound. Tonight’s show would feature EDM artists who had their own takes on this niche genre.
As I walked into the venue at around 10:30 p.m., one of the openers, Kemiko. was already on stage and whipping the crowd up into a frenzy. As I looked around, I felt like I was attending a teenage pajama party the way most folks were dressed. The music was pounding and sounded like space-age gears grinding, with no melody. But the more the loud grinding happened, the more the crowd bounced.
I couldn’t help but think of how much my father hated heavy metal and how much I loved it when I was young. Just like he couldn’t understand why I would want to bang my head to that music, sometimes I have trouble figuring out why this music makes people want to move so much. The songs that made people bounce and sway were the ones that had the loudest, most bone-rattling sounds. I often compared the distinctive sound as being similar to the sound of the blip in the game Super Breakout from the 80s when it broke through the wall and bounced along the top. Imagine that sound being much louder, and with much distortion, in a syncopated rhythm.
People on the front rail for Kemiko were holding the rail and banging their heads to the grinding beat. On one song, he began with a sample of MIA’s “Airplanes” and then went right into the grind noises associated with dubstep. The louder and more violent the music, the more the crowd got into it.
Next up was Executioner, who came out in a dark ballcap and jumped right into the loud industrial sounds. This wasn’t a bunch of samples. He went right into the grinding sounds of dubstep that are created from scratch. At one point, there was a “demonic” voice talking over the grinding sounds. Executioner had a mask on, so you couldn’t see his face, and he had large can headphones, all making the artist essentially anonymous. It’s hard to say if this was because of a style choice or a desire not to be recognized offstage.
I noticed that the group of people on the rail for Executioner’s show were a little more hardcore than the people who were there for Kemiko’s set. Executioner used heavier bass, and Kemiko was more technical. As Executioner was playing his music, he was constantly dancing. His motions to control the music seemed to be a synchronized dance itself.
All the people on the rail were banging their heads and pulled their bodies up towards the stage as they grabbed the steel rail in front of them.
As Executioner finished his set, the front part of the Canopy Club was filled with young people, anxious to see and hear Marauda. The set went dark for quite a few minutes, which is unusual for an EDM show because of how easy it is to go from one DJ to another. We saw Marauda come in and go backstage just minutes before Executioner finished his set, so maybe he was running late.
Finally, Marauda took the stage. Marauda plays a couple of different sub-genres of dubstep. One of them is riddim dubstep. Riddim is a sub-genre of dubstep that emphasizes a strong rhythm and groove and features repetitive baselines and minimal sound design.
Marauda began his set with some riddim tracks, and the crowd went wild. The bass was so intense that you could feel it in your chest: it vibrated your clothes even. The sound design was noticeably more polished, with intricate layers of bass and percussion creating a wall of sound that was both exhilarating and mesmerizing to the audience.
A large part of EDM shows is the visuals. Aside from the lighting rigs, Marauda displayed computer-generated imagery on the screen behind him. Most of it was occult-themed or “evil” looking. The colors red and black are a very large part of his brand and image.
Marauda also delves in tearout dubstep, and as he played those songs. The energy level in the room went through the roof. The fast tempos and complex rhythms were dizzying, and the drops were absolutely massive. The crowd responded with wild enthusiasm as the songs got louder and the bass got deeper.