Deltron 3030 at First Avenue, 10/20/13
Photo by Mark Kartarik
with Kid Koala
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Sunday, October 20, 2013
After seven years of teasers, small leaks, and label delays, it's two-thousand-thirteen, and the new Deltron 3030 record finally dropped. Like a long awaited sequel to a beloved cult film, Event II provoked a whole spectrum of reactions, but the supergroup's tour to support it had the fanboys out in droves. Bay Area rapper-producer duo Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan the Automator, backed by Canadian turntablist Kid Koala rocked their thoroughly unique sci-fi project to a sold out mainroom last night.
See Also: Slideshow: Deltron 3030 at First Avenue
Kid Koala's wizard-level control of the faders made for a fascinating opening act for the show. With the kind of A-level scratching talent that seems to be rarer than ever, the DJ put together a masterful set of mixes that were a real treat to behold. Moving nimbly between three turntables, two mixers, and what appeared to be a circut-bending effects board, Koala put on a clinic for the kind of precise, surgeon's scalpel cuts that made him a star of the DJ battle circuit. After a the set's sole flub, a false start that probably would have gone unnoticed, the DJ humbly apologized and shared an anecdote about a painfully embarrassing piano recital from his youth, noting that it made all the screw-ups that came after it seem tame in comparison.
Photos by Mark Kartarik
As the mainroom's curtain raised for the main event, the artists were nowhere to be seen, with fog swirling around the empty stage, lit in dark blue and purple. Samples of a Tennis match bled through swirling sci-fi noise, coalescing around the phrase "the return" until the Dan, Del, and Kid Koala appeared with their three-man backing band to begin Deltron's classic intro track "3030." The sold-out crowd of die-hard nerds went ape, and the song's relatively (for Deltron, anyway) simple hook echoed off the walls.
It's a testament to the project's inventiveness that Deltron 3030 has had such widespread popularity. Normally, things falling this far on the nerdy end of the hip-hop spectrum tend to be niche affairs, but joints like "Positive Contact" rock a party surprisingly well for having complex lyrics about interstellar corporations and post-apocalyptic conspiracies. Sure, some of the density of Del's nimble, metaphor-laden wordplay gets lost in translation, but witnessing the MC spit bars upon bars stacked with $30 adjectives the entire evening was truly impressive. A lot of credit should go to Dan the Automator and Kid Koala as well, without their mothership-funk soundscapes to anchor all of this weirdness, Deltron would be lose a lot of its unique appeal.
The Automator himself spent the show triggering a whole array of samples from his control station that enhanced the music's alien qualities, while also playing hype-man for Del and conducting their live backing band. It was hard to tell if Dan just really enjoyed dancing like that, or if the power-trio -- featuring Juan Alderete of the Mars Volta and Racer X -- really just needed that much instruction, but the producer was up and waving his arms like Osmo Vanska during nearly every break in the show's beats. The musicians themselves weren't really helped by the mix, which occasionally sounded muddy when trying to layer all of the dense textures that make up songs like "Nobody Can." Still they provided a solid backing that allowed Del and Kid Koala to go all the way in with their lyrical and scratching abilities, and a rock atmosphere that made even the geekiest Deltron songs into bangers.
While Del himself was relatively silent between songs, perhaps saving his breath for the tongue-twisting verses to come, Dan the Automator was animated and clearly excited to be in Minneapolis, encouraging the somewhat passive crowd to go crazier and handling official business like track introductions. At one point, before "Virus," he brought out a giant pink box full of donuts, apparently provided for the green room by the nearby Glam Doll Donuts shop, and crowed appreciatively about their quality while sneaking a bite. Thankfully, the show was full of moments of levity like this one that kept the heady themes of the Deltron albums from ever becoming overwhelming. Like midnight showing of Spaceballs, the focus seemed to be more on celebrating the shared enthusiasm for this geeky touchstone of an album, rather than soberly viewing it like an artifact.
Photos by Mark Kartarik
Retrieving his trusty Anti-Hero board for the encore, Del informed us that he'd rather skate than play if we weren't all the way hyped. The crowd finally opened up for the final pairing of the new tune "Do You Remember" and Deltron's closest thing to a "hit," the Automator-produced Gorrilaz song "Clint Eastwood." As a disembodied Damon Albarn sang the hook, Koala and the Automator revved their equipment into lightspeed, turning the song into a glitching, explosive coda of lazers and other sci-fi noise. A fitting blast-off finale for our futuristic heroes.
Critic's Bias: Didn't get much of a chance to listen to Event II before this show, so I'm a bit biased towards the older material.
The Crowd: Totally packed, unfortunately low on Deltron 3030 cosplayers.
Random Notebook Dump: There was a small computer monitor in near the floor in the middle of the stage in front of Del, tough to tell if that was a digital set-list or a bit of a lyrical-memory aide for the MC.
Things You Can Do
City Rising From the Ashes
Melding of the Minds
Do You Remember
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.