While New Orleans froze, Datsik's gut-rattling "Ninja Nation" tour came to The Joy Theater Tuesday night.
[This is the first piece by new contributor Daniel Kelley]
On the coldest Tuesday in New Orleans since the Louisiana Purchase, several hundred ravers descended on the Joy Theatre for a night of head-banging revelry orchestrated by dubstep aficionado Troy Beetles, better known by his stage name, Datsik.
Early in the evening, while new Firepower Records signees Space Jesus, Riotten, and Wooli warmed up the steadily-growing crowd with trap-heavy opening sets, the harsh, chafing wind from outside the venue brutalized the few unfortunate ticket-takers stationed by the doors.
Just after 11, once the crew had cleared the stage following Space Jesus' closing number, a curtain fell to reveal the title act's elaborate stage set-up: a faux-Japanese palace built out of LED panels, smoke cannons, and lasers, fittingly titled "Shogun." Adorned with his light-up Asian conical hat and accompanying white ninja garb, Datsik hopped onto the decks and dropped the first of his signature dubstep bangers to start off the night.
Light-up headgear in EDM has been employed since deadmau5, and with half a dozen other bass/trap/dubstep acts making similar wardrobe choices at their shows, the element has become more of a trite standard than a memorable novelty. But unlike many of his face-mask-wearing contemporaries, Datsik left the mic on the DJ table and let the bass music speak for itself, only interrupting the constant stream of sound to interject the occasional "Are you feeling this shit?" and "Are you guys ready to turn the fuck up!" to hype the frenzied mass of revelers before him.
Despite the producer's nearly decade-long discography, Datsik's show offered little in the way of diversity. One 75 BPM supersaw synth-laden drop followed another, with little to differentiate between songs besides the frenetically-changing, Japanese-inspired visuals on the LED panels. Even when the DJ gave hints that he might switch up the vibe, like when he slowed the tempo to drop a wobble house track or screamed "Alright, let's switch it up! Let's get creative!" into the mic, more dubstep predictably followed.
For bassheads and headbangers looking to blow off steam through interpretive dancing, Datsik's musical display was a lot like the store-bought brand of ibuprofen. It got the job done, but it could have come from any light-up-mask-wearing DJ.
What set Datsik's show apart from any other was the production. This year's installment of the Ninja Nation tour brought along the auditory firepower of PK Sound. The Alberta-based sound engineers have outfitted the likes of Shambhala and Electric Daisy Carnival with the world's most impressive PA systems. Tuesday night, PK Sound brought all the massiveness of a mega-festival to the cozy Joy Theatre. With each successive cannonball of bass shot through the state-of-the-art speaker systems, drinks were spilled, elbows were thrown, and intestines were violently shaken inside vibrating chest cavities. PK Sound’s PA almost gave the music physical form, and because sonic textures are crucial to dubstep, this was more fun than it sounds. By the end of the night, a drained crowd stumbled out of the venue with even less balance than they had when they stumbled in.
Ravers came for their fix, and Datsik delivered. Although lacking in musical variety, the DJ provided a satisfying treatment of gut-busting bass music and neck-breaking dubstep. Datsik's reliably rambunctious music blasted through a crystal-clear PK Sound system and, stuffed into the compact Joy Theatre, offered as warm of a night you'll get in 26-degree weather.