A Language Of Their Own
October 13, 2012
Zedd and Porter Robinson re-imagine the music we dance to.
Something indescribable was happening, and although no one could really identify what that thing was, everybody knew right down to their core that they were exactly where they needed to be. The show was sold out, and it had been for weeks. Major DJs from all over Southern California showed up, not to work, but to witness this moment in dance music history.
The soundproof windows insulating the lounge upstairs were removed and speakers were placed in strategic locations. Makeshift bars popped up on the patio and in the lobby like military field hospitals. Every VIP table was adorned with a mountain of booze. Every available square inch of the ground floor was occupied. Every eyeball was locked on the stage. There were no go-go dancers. To say that the already spectacular lighting system was upgraded would be a gross understatement. Two of the youngest and most adored DJs in the world humbly approached the stage together, addressed the crowd together, and attacked their equipment like a couple of sharks in a feeding frenzy. The first song of their first show in OC was piping through the speakers at decibels exceeding the sound of an F-16 fighter jet. The crowd lost their minds. Shit got real.
Since announcing the intriguing “Poseidon back-to-back” tour concept to MTV in August, Porter Robinson’s song “Language” has spiked in popularity and was one of the most played tracks on BBC’s Radio One. His Spitfire EP made so much noise upon its release that it crashed the Beatport servers. Benny Benassi has included Robinson’s tracks in his set lists, and the distinguished electronic music producer BT often uses “Language” to end his sets. He has toured with Tiesto and Skrillex and has made some huge debut appearances at EDC, Ultra, and Electric Zoo. It’s no surprise that Robinson has secured a spot on DJ Mag’s top 100 DJs list along with being in the top 21, under 21.
Oh yeah, Porter Robinson is only 20.
That would make Zedd the veteran of the two. At 23, Zedd’s accomplishments include being a classically trained pianist who in a matter of months began producing electronic dance music, won two of Beatport’s remix contests, and was recruited to produce remixes for Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, P. Diddy, Skrillex, and Swedish House Mafia. His brand new album, Clarity, which was released in late September, shot to the top of the iTunes “Best Dance Album” chart in less than a week. This follows the acclaim his track “Dovregubben” received after moving into the #1 spot on Beatport’s Electro House Chart… for four weeks. His track “Spectrum” is so loved by DJs all over the globe that it has commissioned an onslaught of remixes. Too many to count.
All of this comes at a time when dance music has come under attack on multiple fronts. Joel Zimmerman, Deadmau5 in real life, is perhaps the most vocal critic of the genre he calls a “sinking ship”. He even blew the whistle on himself for contributing to the false impression that DJs were doing more on stage than just counting to four. “I had that down when I was three,” he quips in his provocative Tumblr article “We All Hit Play“. “I just roll up with a laptop and a midi controller and ‘select’ tracks n hit a spacebar.” In light of disingenuous moments in recent DJ history–like Paris Hilton‘s debut DJ appearance in Brazil where a video clearly shows her set completely controlled and prerecorded, or Madonna asking the audience at the Ultra Music Festival earlier this year if “anyone had seen Molly” when introducing Cedric Gervais — Zimmerman may have been lashing out as a way to draw a clear line in the sand. It didn’t come off that way. There will always be those who fake it til they make it, and there are the honest ones, the producers, up at three a.m. in their studio, coffee in hand, who do it for love, not notoriety.
If this culture is sinking, it’s hard to point at young and brilliant producers like Zedd and Porter Robinson in shame. Their meticulous and well-thought-out productions like “Language” and “Clarity” show a deeper ability reminiscent of the greatest musicians in recent memory. Zedd has posted Youtube videos of himself playing his songs on the piano before they go digital. Porter Robinson takes care to focus on classical elements of song creation, choosing proven and talented vocalists who can create stirring soundscapes. The only difference is the technology available to create that music. If he was born 20 or 30 years ago, Zedd would have picked up a more classical instrument like the drums or a guitar. But, c’mon, in the 21st Century, it’s a computer and a beat machine. In a candid interview with Alejandra Loera at the OC Weekly, Anton says that his influences were dance music producers. “I knew Daft Punk and Justice but that’s it” Zaslovski tells Loera. ”I really just did it for fun. Then one day I sent Skrillex a remix and next thing you know he brings me on tour and my life is changed.” Zaslovski is young enough for that to be entirely possible.
Zedd and Porter Robinson went hard all night. They surprised each other often with their selections and created a language of smiles and smirks that allowed them to communicate on a higher level. The tour concept worked. Writing in an article for The Huffington Post titled “Don’t Push My Buttons“, A-trak posits that “real DJing lives when you witness someone play for hours and take risks, reading the crowd and surprising them at the same time.” Maybe the winning formula to right the sinking ship was discovered that night. Keep surprising each other, keep collaborating, and keep the spirit of playfulness alive. It’s what created the scene. It’s what will save it.
For more articles by Lee Underwood, click here.
For the entire album of Zedd and Porter Robinson at The Yost Theater, click here.
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For more great upcoming shows in SoCal, click here.