April 8, 2013

Danny Chau is known for his killer crossover.

“Man, I got a lot of problems…”

After rattling off a few of his early hits (though “Imma Star” was conspicuously absent) in his special guest appearance for the last leg of Shlohmo’s Laid Out tour last Saturday, Jeremih paused to get a few things off his chest. Except the audience never got to hear about his plight. As soon as his voice trailed off, Shlohmo unleashed a skittering barrage of air horn samples, effectively voiding Jeremih’s confessional crowd banter. It was an unlikely highlight of the evening; a ridiculous gesture from Shlohmo that both exalts Jeremih’s presence among unworthy peons, and completely shits on the importance of his thoughts. The star-crossed artists then jumped straight into an extended jam of “Fuck U All The Time,” a standout from last year’s stellar Late Nights With Jeremih, as if the sound had triggered selective amnesia. Whatever his problems were, they were already in the past, mauled to submission by air horns. I think what I’m trying to say is the world would be a much happier place if we all had our own personal air horns.

Shlohmo’s performance was a lesson in context for me. I’ve been a longtime listener, but I was a first-time showgoer. Shlohmo, in my experience, has always been something to play while staring at the ceiling. There’s always at least a tinge of melancholy in his productions, and when left alone with some headphones, those motifs emerge and blossom. It’s solitary dance music, where the body’s nodding and tapping is just an unconscious byproduct. The real activity is going on upstairs. The mind flexes with the highs, but when the lows kick in, it’s slow dancing with the disembodied voices that linger throughout Shlohmo’s body of work. But in a crowd of hundreds, where everyone is familiar with the premise of his music, Shlohmo takes the liberty of rewiring a song’s presentation while maintaining its ethos. It was a pleasant surprise when he flipped his sparse and understated remix of LOL Boys’ “Changes” into the most adrenaline-fueled jam all night. At one point, he introduced the beginning chords of “Genie In A Bottle” and got the entire Fonda Theatre turnt up on a codeined Christina Aguilera. That isn’t necessarily astounding on its own—the original was a banger—it’s just, being an all-ages event, I’m pretty sure the song was released before a good portion of the audience reached first grade.

But I was waiting, hoping for something in particular. If “The Way U Do” off the Vacation EP isn’t my favorite Shlohmo song, it’s at the very least a capsule of trying times—of the 2 a.m. bleary-eyed walks home in complete darkness, with nothing around but the whirring of damp, cold morning air running along the sides of my headphones. The acoustics change in that environment. The faucet drips in the background hit sharper. The submerged percussion expands and splays out. When the vocal sample stretches and soars into what sounds “like a guitar solo,” as Andrew Ryce described it, it feels like enlightenment. Vacation seemed like an odd thing to title the EP, but it made a lot more sense to me once I realized that 10-minute walk home was what I most looked forward to during work.

The song started to peek through the all-consuming bass. At that moment, a mass of outstretched arms rose in unison, as if to tell me that my elation wasn’t mine alone. As the song soared, the crowd roared along as the lights shone white upon Shlohmo, whose arm thrust outward like he was using the Force, or something. It felt like an important moment. It was a show of power. He was in complete control.

“The Way U Do” melted into his excellent remix of Lianne La Havas’ “Forget.” And maybe that’s it—I guess the importance of forgetting is what I’m trying to say. In the right environment, under the right conditions, all it takes is something loud and powerful to make a few problems disappear. Sometimes it takes a four hour long show; sometimes it only takes a few pumps of an air horn.

Near the end, Shlohmo and Jeremih got playful. It was their show and they deserved it. They blasted “Started From The Bottom” because there really is no better song to celebrate the ascent of Henry Laufer. A year and a half ago, he was in an independent movie theatre modestly recreating Bad Vibes to a lethargic audience slumping in their seats. In 2013, he’s producing for major label artists and widely recognized as one of the most original talents in his sector of the music world. Throughout the night, he embodied the power of his own music by manically flailing and cooking (at the beginning of his set, he let out an audible “Yessssssss”—the Based God would be proud). After the music wound down and he expressed his gratitude to the audience, he fled the stage with a meek “OK, bye” as his last words. Without the weight of his sound backing him up, you realize quickly how young Laufer is, and how much time he has left to grow. And then you realize some problems aren’t so bad after all.

Download:
ZIP: Jeremih – Late Nights with Jeremih (Left-Click)

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