I've often wondered, what is it exactly that makes people gravitate so fanatically towards Ricardo Villalobos? You know, besides the good music. Is it just a massive hype machine surrounding his name?
After seeing him perform this past Sunday at Mutek's Piknic 2, I finally get it.
It's him -- his "aura," if you will. The positive vibe and energy he gives off is something that you immediately pick up on in his presence. This is something that you, in the crowd, feed off of. When you see Ricardo, you just see a guy who is having a really good time, and loving life. It lifts your spirit, even in the most shitty of weather (read on). This is a key component in DJ/crowd interaction, and something that can completely change a music experience. It's one of the same reasons that Derek Plaslaiko is also one of my favorite DJs: he is just goddamn fun to be around. It's also the same reason why I don't get much out of some other DJ's, like the aforementioned Carl Craig. Craig's stoic and emotionless mask just sucks all the life out of you when you look at him, even if he is dropping sick tunes.
Ricardo and Zip, co-founder of the hallowed minimal label Perlon (and who is not to be understated here), opened the day with blissful deep and thumping beats. Let it be said here that I probably only recognized about 2-3 tracks out of the entire 7 hour set, so my description probably wont be that detailed. After about an hour or so, they transitioned seamlessly into some great funky grooving tracks. In contrast to the previous day's Piknic, there were already a slew of people lined at the gates to get into the party at opening time, so by now the area in front of the stage was pretty densely populated. The metro too was much more crowded than Saturday, and I wondered if the senior citizens aboard were also turning out for Ricardo. Somewhere around the mid-point of their set, they dropped a MONSTER acid-techno track with big marching-drums that seemed to go on for at least 15 minutes. At this point, the sun was rapidly fading and ominous clouds were being ushered our way by brutal gusts of wind.
Then it happened. Maybe it was all the hedonistic ravers angering the gods, or maybe Montreal just has sucky weather in May, but either way, the skies opened up with a massive downpour of cold rain circa 5pm. I wondered if, even despite the great music, I could last another 3-4 hours in that weather. A lot of people clearly felt the same way because after about 20 minutes of it, the crowd became noticeably thinner. The rest of us stuck it out though, and laughed when without a moment's hesitation, Ricardo and Zip put on a track with vocals that sang of "thunder and rain." This is where Ricardo's persona really helped out. Watching him dance around whimsically, blow kisses to everyone, and just be a general fun-loving goofball, made all the cold and wet just a little more tolerable (although it also made me jealous that he was safe and dry in the booth!). I can't be sure he would have behaved the same were he out there in the rain with us, but somethind told me he would be dancing and smiling regardless.
A bit bewildering was Mutek's lack of anything to shelter party-goers from the weather. Sunday's rain had been in the forecast for a while, and as such, Mutek had the contingency plan of moving the party to Metropolis if it got rained out. However, as the skies were clear at the 2pm start time, they went on with the party outdoors at the park. It was obvious that once they made the decision where to hold it, they were not going to move the party halfway through, even if the weather turned bad. The rain was impending though, and unavoidable, so why not then set up some tents or any sort of shelter around the music area? The lack of something like this really made me feel like they dropped the ball... it just seems like common sense to me for an outdoor party. Hell, even Mintek was able to get that done. I was also a bit dissapointed at the lack of signage or any direction or promotion whatsoever for the supposed "second stage." I was pretty interested in checking out Nicolas Jaar, who has had a couple of awesome podcasts latley. Moving away from the body heat at the main stage proved too tough however, and I never was able to find Stage 2.
Eventually, the rain stopped. My girlfriend and I decided at this point to go back to the hotel for a short break and change into some dry clothes. We returned about an hour later to find a much more subdued music and crowd. With little over an hour left in their set, I expected Ricardo and Zip to be whipping out the real jams. I don't mean in the sense of just hammering out the mega tracks, as I wouldn't expect that from either of them, but playing something really memorable and energizing. Dissapointingly the case was quite the opposite.
The last 45 mins of their set plodded along and finally trickled to a slow meandering finish. The tracks were spacey and mellow, and a bit of a downer for me. I really wanted a nice pick-me-up after the terrible weather we had just endured, but perhaps I had missed that during my trip to the hotel. Ricardo's final encore track was the same, a bit melodic and pretty, but very lethargic. Then it was over. Though the end left me a bit disheartened, the experience as a whole was amazing, and one I will never forget.
// Nocturne 5 //
After having some leftovers, we headed to Mutek's closing party at Société des arts technologiques (SAT). Sadly for me, the sleepy mood predicated at the end of Piknic was more or less continued for much of Nocturne 5. We arrived at the tail end of Mateo (Murphy) & Pheek's set, unfortunatley not enough time to really get an idea of how they played. After them was a live set from Stephen Beaupré. It wasn't a bad set, I actually would of enjoyed listening to it while driving in my car, or maybe even if it had been at Saturday's Piknic, but it was definitely not what I was in the mood for at that point in time. Here and there he would drop a funky groove, ultimately though, it felt dreary and sluggish, which did not help my already drowsy state.
Following Beaupre was Akufen, whos set brought up the energy level a little bit. His sound was pleasant deep house full of funk and disco influence, but remained very mellow none the less, and fairly unremarkable.
Closing out the night was, The Modern Deep Left Quartet, a Wagon Repair "supergroup" comprised of Mathew Jonson, Tyger Dhula, Danuel Tate, and Colin de la Plante (The Mole). The Quartet rocked it for two very solid hours, finally bringing the energy to the room that I was looking for, and more befitting of a closing party. From what I could tell, it was Jonson on laptop and controllers, Tate on piano and vocals, The Mole on turntable and FX, and Dhula on some other hardware, with Jonson more or less directing the flow of the set. I couldn't really discern any difference between their performance and that of a Cobblestone Jazz one (same lineup, sans The Mole), which had me kind of confused, but this isn't to say it detracted from the quality of the music. Their set chugged along like a locomotive, with improvisational jazzy bits keeping the crowd on its toes. One such member of the crowd we were suprised to run into was Tahmoh Penikett, who plays Helo on one of our favorite shows: Battlestar Galactica. My girlfriend was overjoyed :p. A friend of Mathew Jonson's, Penikett has apparently been into the Canadian techno scene for quite some time now. Small world!
All good things must end, and Mutek officially came to a close at 3am. It was another good half-hour before the crowd cleared out, many of us unwilling to leave until Ricardo officially left the building and stopped wandering about, friendily chatting it up with anyone who said hi. There were rumors that him and Zip were to play an exclusive afterparty, but the allure of this did not prove strong enough to conquer our desire to get in bed.
FYI Ricardo says he will be coming to the US next year! He said it was not because of Obama solely, as he doesn't think Obama (or anybody) can change things that drastically in such a short time, but that he was very impressed by the amount of Americans who went out and voted, and at the positive spirit of the people. Can't wait!
Pictures and interviews soon to come! Check back soon.
Oh, by the way, Ricardo's flight was at 1pm ;)
- Reuben out