Bassgasm 2 at First Avenue, 7/23/10
July 23rd, 2010
You could feel it before you walked through the door. The low end was turned up as far as it would go, reverberating through the black brick of First Ave, making the concrete tremble beneath the feet of all the boys and girls lined up outside Minneapolis' foremost concert venue. The flier advertised the "Totally Ridiculous Wall of Bass," and it was apparent at the time the scores of dance fans started queuing that a sound rig of gigantic proportion was waiting inside for them.
But, wait--that was 11 PM. Let's rewind a bit.
Bassgasm 2 (like its predecessor) started at 5 PM, before some of us were off of work, let alone ready for a long night of dancing. The lineup boasted 70+ performers spread across each and every room of First Ave, and sadly, a big portion of those acts had timeslots that proved too early for most party people. Those who wouldn't/couldn't come out for the earlier performers missed sets from some hugely talented Twin Cities mainstays, including Strangelove, Centrific, Jeff Hunter, and HotDish. Over the years it's become evident that our host, Woody McBride, is passionate about throwing massive shows--but without the freedom that raving in a warehouse provides, McBride has taken to shoehorning huge lineups into the constraints of a club, where definite closing times mean that an event this large has to start unnaturally early for the dance crowd that it caters to.
Still, it was a feat to pack this many acts (and massive stacks of speakers) into a single club on a single night, and when you're dealing with a scale this large, problems inevitably arise. Just as a sizable crowd started to fill the venue, the mainstage sound system went down, cutting short the set of Keith Mackenzie, whose Miami stripclub breakbeats seemed the perfect fodder for a soundsystem so bottom-heavy. While techs worked to get the sound in the mainroom running, the crowd circulated through First Ave's other areas.
A third of the dancefloor in the 7th St. Entry was taken up with a row of subwoofers that pulsed with the deep, rich tones of dubstep. Tekfro and Tom Foolery jumped between crowd-ready rap mixes and airy, anthemic breakbeat, setting the stage for an impressive showing from Sovereign Sect (their laptops/effects/drumkit setup turned out some of the most impressive sounds of the evening). Upstairs, the Record Room was a sweatbox, steaming hot and crammed full of dancers worked into a frenzy by the bouncy techno of Tommy Etzi, Nancy Cheng, and Mike G. The sound in the Record Room was nothing short of intense; it was a feeling as much as a noise, the very air in the room visibly distorted with bass frequencies that shook the crowd to their cores. It was the best kind of overkill, and a portion of the audience couldn't bring themselves to leave that space the entire night.
Just as the Mainroom sound came back online, local one-man-band Bad N' Rad brought 80's rave-ups and a cadre of costumed dancers clad in everything from a giant pizza slice to day-glo hot pants. The crowd that trickled back in rallied around him, offering cheers for all the vocodered theatrics. The newly-fixed sound from the main stage bled over into the other areas; DJs situated on the Mezzanine level and a makeshift stage set up where the pool tables usually reside were hard to listen to with all the interference, unless you were pressed right up against the speakers. It was an environment that seemed as hard to perform in as it was to focus on.
Tommy Sunshine took over the mainroom duties just after midnight, playing a set of hard-edged, fidgety house that leaned heavily on diced vocal snippets, snapping the crowd right back into dancing mode after the unplanned hiatus. Sunshine's face was obscured by extra-long hair and sunglasses as he played, looking for all the world like Cousin It's long lost brother from Los Angeles, but mixing and chopping with the skill of a consummate professional. After a short Jefferson Airplane interlude between DJs, Terry Mullan surprised some seasoned fans by opening with tracks that referenced Public Enemy and Malcolm X instead of pushing the burbling acid sound that he helped popularize. Both of the main headliners threw a couple of curveballs in their respective sets, but came out on top by reflecting the crowd's youthful energy right back at them with newer big-room tracks that made the most of the giant sound system.
Unlike the first installment, Bassgasm 2 seemed less concerned with the "old-school rave reunion" vibe, disappointing some of the older crowd. But, that's a small indictment of a show so large, and one so obviously successful in its aims. For bringing a talented array of DJs, producers, and dancers to a crowd that truly craves them, Woody McBride has once again coordinated an event to remember. When asked about the highlight of his evening towards the end of the night, McBride simply stated that his favorite part was "all the nice people, and the opportunity to put together so much good music for them." After many notable events, McBride's focus remains on providing a fantastic time for anyone that wants to join him. Not everything fits comfortably at a show this massive, but McBride's more-is-better aesthetic remains wildly entertaining.
Personal Bias: DJ and dance fan for over a decade, with McBride's older events being some of my first.
The Crowd: Decidedly younger than the first Bassgasm crowd, replacing experience with exuberance. Lots of sunglasses at night, fuzzy boots, and neon everything.
Overheard in the crowd: "See? This is why I need that Wookie backpack."
"I didn't realize my underwear were on backwards until five minutes ago."
"You need to go for a run. Actually, never stop running."
Random notebook dump: A guy in a traffic vest is serving pizza on the dancefloor, a girl in a tiara decided the hanging sculpture needs some personal modifications, and a deeply intoxicated dude is pressing stickers on everyone he passes. Rave business as usual.
Setlist: 70 performers across 5 stages at a 9 hour show in a genre where track names can be carefully guarded secrets. I'm not superhuman, y'know.
For more photos: See our slideshow by Denis Jeong Plaster.
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