Story / Heather Seidler. Photos / Alexander Fante
Long gone are the days when all a DJ had to worry about was his record collection. These days, especially in the electric rock arena, you need a larger-than-life presence to take the concert experience to another level. And right now there is no one larger than Deadmau5 in the electronic dance world. Heralded as the “ultimate sonic superhero” Deadmau5, otherwise known as Joel Zimmerman, is the world renowned Canadian DJ, producer, international chart-topper and Skrillex mentor.
At the Santa Barbara Bowl, after stellar opening DJ sets by Jason Bentley, Le Castle Vania and Feed Me, Deadmau5 took to the stage and climbed up his three-dimensional Mau5 cube. The spaceage cube is a grandiose sci-fi-style futuristic LED podium that houses his musical equipment, seemingly straight out of Tron. There’s no other stage production out there in pop or rock that even rivals the lights and full wall video screen behind the command center. Donning his legendary Mau5 headpiece, Deadmau5 opened with the song Where are My Keys. Lightning bolts streaked across the screen and appear across the Mau5head, not just bringing everything out of this world, but creating an electric galaxy of his own making. The elaborate lighting was perfectly in sync with the music and the sound system was withstanding every note. Hollywood hasn’t seen 3D like this until now.
One quickly got a sense of just how big a deal a Deadmau5 show was. The pit was packed tightly with a sea of costumed concert-goers, undulating glowing mouse ears, and a lot of homemade Mau5 heads—everyone raising their arms in the air, pulsating to the synthetic beats. Whether you were in the pit or in a seat, if you were there at all, you moved up and down. It was a welcome relief to see kids really dancing and not sitting around drinking $12 Jack & Cokes acting hip. The appeal of Deadmau5’ songs are that they bounce back and forth from melodies that appeal to your mind, and drops that stick to your bones.
At 9 p.m. sharp, the show was elevated even further when SOFI, German-born vocalist and member of the Mau5trap label, joined Deadmau5 onstage for the two songs they produced together: SOFI Needs a Ladder and One Trick Pony. Watching SOFI command the transfixed crowd along with her Mau5 overlord was one of the main highlights of the evening. SOFI’s unique dance moves in combination with powerful vocals, was the perfect accompaniment to Mau5’ syncopated rhythms. At one point, Joel took traded in his Mau5 head for a white bedsheet then snuck back on stage as a ghost, successfully sneaking up behind SOFI and scaring the living crap out of her—right in the middle of her song. That was a crowd pleaser.
Deadmau5 delivered an adrenaline driven and transcendent two-hour set that entered into a realm of electronic divinity occupied by Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers and Tiesto, cementing his unrivaled ability to construct beats. His music is already perfectly forged for the dance floor. So when actualizing his tunes live, Deadmau5 doesn’t need to employ introductions, wait for a round of applause or spin within the confines of electronic genres. He has no qualms sampling Elton John’s Tiny Dancer into the mix. He gets up on his precipice and magically tinkers with gear so seamlessly that, even if you’ve been living in a land void of nightclubs and YouTube for the past few years and had no idea who Deadmau5 was, you would still dance. Deadmau5 doesn’t just engage his audience, he is his audience.
Dance music made a resurgence around the same time the music industry all but collapsed and Deadmau5 has found effective ways to engage his fans outside traditional realms. Many outsiders don’t understand the music’s nuances, and electronic music hasn’t entirely eclipsed stereotypes of “untz untz” rave clubs populated by sleazy Euro guys with too much hair gel. But there is a new musical kid on the block and to further reaffirm his reign as the god of electronic music, Zimmerman filled the Bowl to its brim with the tightest electronic music Santa Barbara has likely ever experienced. The night following the Santa Barbara show, Deadmau5 performed a sold-out show at the 15,000-capacity Petco Park San Diego, which was the second largest single-headliner DJ show ever in the United States. All without the any help from mainstream media.
+Stay tuned for Ladygunn’s feature on SOFI & Deadmau5 in the Winter Issue*
SETLIST: Where Are My Keys Bad Selection Maths Reward Is Cheese To Play Us Out Some Chords Complications Cthulhu Sleeps Arguru Asdfghjkl HR 8938 Cephei Jaded Slip Aural Psynapse Raise Your Weapon Sofi Needs A Ladder One Trick Pony FML Professional Griefers Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff Limit Break Animal Rights Get in the Cart, Pig Strobe