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  The Delta Heavy Tour 05.21.2002
by Damon Fonooni
photos by George M. Nathaniel

Venue: The Tabernacle
Presented by: Liquified

Delta Heavy at the Tabernacle (stage shot)With the Delta Heavy Tour, a few no-named DJs, Jimmy Van M, John Digweed and some guy named Sasha or something, were going to arrange a performance that would cross the boundaries of playing music with a passion into an artistically driven performance. Once again these three were going to set the precedent in how a tour should be used to inspire the audience, much like with their now infamous Northern Exposure Tours in the early Nineties. The amount of preparation that would go into each performance was unheard of even in the world of international super-clubs. To give you a rough idea, at every venue the VDOSC Sound System (consisting of, ooh…about 25-30 speakers and 10 subwoofers) and the specially designed visuals, provided by Imaginary Forces, would be built from the ground up.

This was the first time I had seen the dynamic duo play together, so believe me, my anticipate-o-meter was shooting through the roof (just ask anyone who ran into me during the two weeks prior to the performance). After hearing about the kickoff of Delta Heavy at the Winter Music Conference, and after hearing about how they manipulated everyone's minds and feet, I knew to expect a sound from them that, although not too distant and detached from a typical Sasha and Digweed set, would compel all in attendance to look forward in the world of house music.

Jimmy van M at Delta HeavyThe doors opened at 9:00 P.M. with Jimmy Van M setting the mood using some subtle, dark tunes. Jimmy was pushing forward with every record, slowly chugging the music along with subtle increases in speed and drive in his track selection.

The visuals were even more intricate than I was expecting. There were clips of tribal figures and silhouettes bobbing and spinning to the tempo of the music. The images reminded me of the African art inspiration that sparked Picasso's exploration of cubism. There were also two entwined metallic sculptures on each side of the DJ booth that clasped a few smaller television screens showing the same visuals as on the major screens. The lighting was responsive to both the music and the energy of the crowd. Although the DJ booth was set farther back then I would have liked, it seemed to allow for focus on most everything but the DJs, as I'm sure was part of the reasoning behind the layout of the stage.

The Duo from Delta HeavyThe man like Sasha approached the turntables with such a subtle entrance that, unless one were staring at the DJs as they switched, a casual onlooker would be none the wiser, that is until the entire crowd began to let out cheers. Sasha's first track, the Josh Wink remix of Radiohead's "Everything In Its Place," let everyone know that things were about to step up. After about 5 songs of dark, tribal music with minimal breakbeats thrown in, Sasha began to rise rapidly into the realm of breakdowns. After about one and a half hours, Sasha stepped aside for Digweed. Although his mixing was less silky than the man like Sasha, he brought to the table tribal house filled with emotional breakdowns, including playing an unreleased Bedrock remix (still trying to find out who wrote the original track) into the Bedrock dub of the same song. Digweed also dropped one of the heavy-hitters from WMC: The Low End Specialists' "Smoked Piece (Hydrogen Rocker's Remix)." And then the cycle repeated, and after every hour and a half, the two would switch off. The crowd cheered during every track, and the DJ team gave the punters what they wanted. At about one o'clock, Sasha and Digweed began switching every couple of tracks, and at that point the music consisted of nothing less than sheer uplifting, melodic synth-lines. The night came to an end at two in the morning much sooner than expected but not before a couple encore teases, including a trance-house track reminiscent of an Eighties' electronic drum and synth sound arranged in an almost Lemon 8 fashion the very same track which Sasha encored with earlier this year at eleven50.

Laser effects at Delta HeavyI must address the style in which the two artists played. Jimmy Van M used his innate sense to set the atmosphere and feeling just right, and Sasha continued to do so at first, but then rather quickly when one steps back and looks at the evening as a whole, he began the process of playing more subtle anthems that Digweed picked up on and both soon began playing upfront anthems. A couple of DJs bearing the names of Sasha and John Digweed, who are internationally recognized as being the top two people in the public eye to push sounds forward and explore a new, futuristic aspect of house music, should perhaps play music that right now is in the distant horizon to us, and in doing so would inspire those who do not know better to look forward instead of remaining stagnant in the ways of house music. Yes, the argument can be made that S + D were playing to the crowd, and yes, that is exactly what a DJ should do, but when I think about it, simply because of their status, their fame, and their credits, they could basically play whatever they wish and all would be equally enthralled. When a person, or in this case persons, are put into a position to not only play the music they love and have such driving passion for, they become not only role models, but also teachers. Taking this into consideration and applying the same situation to all of life and its many environments, if the teacher does not continue to teach and educate, then the student is left without exploring new knowledge and thus will remain in the same state until someone comes along to truly teach a new philosophy.

Although this is merely my opinion, I have talked to many who agree. Just think about it, and in the meanwhile, enjoy the music and keep on rockin'!

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