By Arlo Bender-Simon
[March 11, 2016]
HA! HA! HA!
One way to tell that you are listening to a set mixed by The Gaslamp Killer….listen for the laugh. It interrupts the bass-heavy flow of noise and adds a dependable, ominous, texture to the beats delivered to you by the artist on stage.
Before we dive into this, go to this artist’s website.
The psychedelic image grabs attention, yet is simple and easy to take in, much like the music you will hear when the Gaslamp Killer performs. Towards the bottom of the page, a few words stand out:
LOW END THEORY
Before I was born, A Tribe Called Quest released their second album. It was 1991 and “The Low End Theory” fused influences of jazz and hip-hop, strengthening a new form of musical expression. While this album is not being referenced on the Gaslamp Killer’s website, it certainly highlights something that is essential to the Gaslamp Killer’s style: blending different genres of music into a single narrative, and the album may have been the source of a name.
On North Broadway, nestled along 5 freeway in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, Low End Theory has been happening since 2006. Every Wednesday night at the Airliner Nightclub, Low End Theory takes over the speakers and the resident Djs Daddy Kev, Nobody, Gaslamp Killer and D-Styles facilitate it all. Aside from the residents, a constant stream of guests come through to keep shaking up the sound and amplify the vibrant alternative to commercial music that has blossomed in the LA beat scene. Some names of guests in just the past few months include Penthouse Penthouse, Mixmaster Mike, Ras G, Cut Chemist, Dakim, The Beat Junkies, Samiyan and Dj Earl. (from Low End Theory Facebook)
It is unclear if A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 album influenced the naming of this LA beat-scene destination, but both the album and the Wednesday night club have established Low End Theory as a statement of alternative music. Wikipedia calls the Low End Theory “a weekly experimental hip-hop and electronic nightclub;” this experiment is growing. Aside from weekly Wednesdays in Lincoln Heights, this nightclub now appears “quarterly in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Himeji)” and “every now and again in SF, Europe, and NYC.”
We The Beat may sound familiar because for the past two years or so they have been bombarding southern Santa Barbara venues with experimental electronic and hip hop hop up and comers. As a collective, not only do they produce shows, sometimes they perform themselves: like at two festivals in 2015, New Noise Festival where they held down the silent disco and Lucidity where they set up their own stage and bumped music into the night. On Saturday March 5th, self-dubbed “California collective” We The Beat brought the spirit of Low End Theory to state street, in the form of three Djs on the stage of Soho Restaurant & Music Club.
March 5th at Soho Restaurant & Music Club
A quick internet search of Chadillac Green brings up references to the tattoo shop 805 Ink…..that’s because tattoo artist Chad sometimes becomes Dj Chadillac Green! Chadillac started playing Soho at 9pm to a floor of maybe 10 people. Despite the small audience, the Dj was putting in work and setting the tone for the music that would be played all night. With loud metallic bangs & twists to melodic uplifts this set took listeners on a journey. Hip-Hop beats were the baseline of Chadillac’s hour or so but he jumped into house music, drum and bass, funk and pure experimental noise. For those present, when Chadillac Green brought down the volume and walked off-stage our energy was nurtured, respect for this opener and anticipation for the guru from Los Angeles was palpable.
Dj Underbelly was next, and during his set Soho filled up quick. The Bill’s Bus drivers dropped off their passengers and other late arrivals streamed into the venue. It was not long before I was fondly remembering the wide open spaces that this same hall had been filled with not 100 minutes earlier……later in the night, a Soho employee told me that We The Beat has been consistent in pushing Soho’s dance hall to a point where space is elusive. That said, Soho did great in setting up a table with free water and keeping their patio alive despite the rain! A large tent kept half of the second-floor patio dry and allowed space for IV locals UDOTAI to project some of their mathematical art for those taking a break from the dancehall.
Shoutout to Dj Underbelly, who is a KCSB alum! Underbelly knows how to mix for a crowd and shape his playlist to the situation. Underbelly’s set was almost exclusively trap and heavy beat hip-hop. The crowd was growing all throughout the set and the music never got too fast, but kept the energy in the crowd high and got us moving and ready for more. He’s got an EP coming out soon, stay tuned. The crowd was restless as the music ceased and shuffled around in preparation for the next set. Soho’s dance hall was packed, some space to move around could be found back near the bathrooms amidst a constant flow of people in and out towards the stage or the patio. We shifted, working for space, or comfort, those few words before the music returned.
It is clear that The Gaslamp Killer is comfortable on stage. The Los Angeles native emerged to a cheer, as technicians tested LED stage lights, and deposited his laptop and things on stage. We were left waiting a few more moments before the set began: realizing how little room we had to dance, preparing to absorb the music, glad for the rain pouring down upon Santa Barbara outside, glad to be inside. The set began and our anticipation was realized.
Gaslamp Killer was all smiles as he merged hip hop beats with long instrumental segments. “This is my first show in Santa Barbara!” The artist found time throughout his musical narrative to interact with the crowd, even stepping away from the equipment for a moment after pointing out how important it is for an artist not to forget what the audience hears is important!
I cannot tell you that I know songs by The Gaslamp Killer, identify any of his tracks played during the night. As someone who grew up in the city of Los Angeles I am confronted by how disconnected I am from my own city’s culture. It is clear that Gaslamp played a number of songs in tribute to musical performers who have died, one name he referenced on multiple songs was J Dilla. The Dj swung all over the place from string instrument rhythms to remixes on popular culture, including Darth Vader’s theme song. As a culmination of the many comments made by Gaslamp Killer throughout the performance, and maybe as a statement of his connection with the crowd, one of the final comments made on stage by the Low End Theory resident: “I can imagine a world without Donald Trump, it would be great!”
As The clock struck 1am, The Gaslamp Killer bid us good night and Chadillac Green jumped back on stage to keep music going until 2am. As the crowd trickled out, Soho’s dance hall cleared and space could once again be found.
The night before, on Friday March 4th, Gaslamp Killer had been in Seattle for another show. After Santa Barbara, the Dj is jumping to Germany on Wednesday March 9 to begin a few weeks touring in Europe. He returns to the US in early April to play a festival in Georgia. For a taste of the music we heard on Saturday at Soho, check out “The 10 Best Instrumental Beats, According To The Gaslamp Killer,” published last week on DummyMag.com
We The Beat has more shows lined up for Soho this spring and will continue to bring experimental music to Santa Barbara. Stay tuned for more awesome music news from us here at kcsb!