Show Review: deadmau5 w/Feed Me at the Fox Oakland, 4/25/2017

by Jonathan Pirro on May 4, 2017

deadmau5 atop his cube

deadmau5 atop his cube

In a now-relatively-infamous Tumblr post, Canadian electronic wunderkind deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) called out the DJ world for the lack of ingenuity and overall simplicity of their live shows. Ever since, he’s worked to keep pushing the envelope of his own performances, adding layer after layer of lights and screens that are all triggered by his own available controls, and his popularity continues to ride high even as the EDM scene itself shifts and changes. As a pretty popular act, it’s rare to see the synth mastermind outside of massive festivals or arena tours, so his Lots Of Shows In A Row tour was a treat to see — particularly at Oakland’s Fox Theater, a venue which has lately proven rather popular with the electronic music scene.

Feed Me

Feed Me

I had been hesitant to arrive early for the show, as I knew that Feed Me, the project of UK-based artist Jon Gooch, was the opening act, and I’ve long since been off the train of the harshly-manic, wubby brand of dubstep that Feed Me is purported to center on. However, for this show, it was clear that Gooch knew the sort of crowd he was appealing to — deadmau5, if anything, is much closer to various veins of house music — and delivered an hour-ish set of well-produced electro-house. It was rather surprising to see Feed Me with an extremely minimalistic light setup, compared to the massive “teeth”-laden rig he’s toured with before — but the darkness of the stage didn’t dull the crowd’s enthusiasm. If anything, Feed Me’s set was an excellent addition that made the wait for the main event much more palatable, and I hope he continues to tour with the same house-style sets.

deadmau5 with a full-cube projection

deadmau5 with a full-cube projection

With the popularity and lore that his shows have spread, it’s difficult to provide a lot of suspense for what deadmau5′ show will be like: the average attendee knows that 1) his rig is atop a massive cut-out-cube-shaped structure made of LED screens, and 2) he has a dizzying array of lights. The start of the show, therefore, did excellently to rise to this challenge: the cube and entire light array were hidden behind translucent curtains, and shimmered into view with a tantalizing slowness, the cube “drawing itself” into existence by way of lines of LEDs lighting up the edges. The curtain finally fell at the moment of the bass drop, the cube bursting into full illumination and the side lights exploding to life, and the response from the crowd was instant and massive — roars of approval, jumping bodies, pumping fists, all flying out at once, the moment that deadmau5 finally came into view.

Joel Zimmerman, aka "deadmau5"

Joel Zimmerman, aka “deadmau5”

Once things had started, the flow from song to song was effortless, with the changes still keeping the crowd guessing and cheering along. The set was chiefly culled with songs from W:/2016ALBUM/ and while(1<2), his two most recent releases, but old favorites like “Ghosts n’ Stuff” and “The Veldt” also made their way into the collection, along with a handful of singles yet unreleased on full records. deadmau5′ cube and backing lights both paired with the feel of the songs, and played; some projections were bizarre and strange, having very little to do with the titles or moods of the songs, but the pulse and movement of the lights made up for the odd cognitive dissonance that the projections invoked. Zimmerman himself occasionally reached stopping points in the set to talk to the crowd, and while he still displayed his characteristic cynicism in his joking remarks, he definitely appeared excited to be throwing the show that was getting such an enthusiastic response.

The cube separating, with light spilling out

The cube separating, with light spilling out

For a cutting-edge approach to the current world of live-performance electronica, deadmau5 continues to be a great example that can fit in both tiny clubs and gigantic festival spaces. His cube setup, though revamped, is as iconic as it is envelope-pushing; where previously it was limited in resolution or activity, it now shows infinitely more complex animations, and can separate and shift its segments, both to increase the surprise of the setup and to allow even more possibilities to manipulate light and displays. Musically, he also remains compelling; tweaks and twists on old classics have given them new life and kept them relevant, and his signature sound is still present in his newer work.

This show was an excellent chance to see a world-class musician in a very small space. If such an opportunity comes back in the future, be sure not to miss out!

Setlist:

  1. Imaginary Friends
  2. Three Pound Chicken Wing w/ Beneath With Me (acapella)
  3. Avaritia
  4. Deus Ex Machina
  5. Phantoms Can’t Hang
  6. Stay
  7. Acedia
  8. My Pet Coelacanth
  9. Let Go
  10. Moar Ghosts n’ Stuff
  11. Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff
  12. Maths
  13. 2448
  14. Cat Thruster
  15. Legendary
  16. Snowcone
  17. No Problem
  18. Polaris
  19. The Veldt
  20. Strobe

Encore:

  1. Raise Your Weapon

Additional photos from the show below. All photos © 2017 Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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