Liquified pres. Sasha 06.09.2005
by Parker Stephens
photos by Parker Stephens
Sasha is back, but this time he's left the records at home. For the first time in Atlanta, courtesy of eleven50 and Liquified, Mr. Alexander Coe delivered a DJ set using only Ableton Live and his custom-made Maven controller. This tour was designed to promote his latest mix CD, Fundacion, being released on Global Underground June 21.
Early in the night many of my expectations had already been met. The club filled quickly with diverse attendees ranging from the thirty-something club veteran to the newly initiated and glowstick-waving eighteen year old. Sasha's 18+ weekday crowds usually always display this 50/50 split of the young and the not-so, no surprises there. Steve Porter provided a great start to the night. His set was delicious from the start and pulled most of the salivating Sasha fans onto the dance-floor in full swing early in the night. His funky brand of Porterhouse created the perfect vibe for an opening set and the more I heard, the more I wished he weren't just the opening act. Still no surprises. As Steve carried the early hours on in signature style, I became a little irritated inside knowing he would soon be leaving the decks. The opening DJ had me so entrenched in his funky and pulsing house music that it made me hesitant to enter into (what I expected to be) a softer, floatier, and more ethereal set from Sasha. At that point I did not want (to use one of EDM's most nauseating expressions) to be taken on a journey.
However, the most pleasant surprise of the night occurred when Sasha took control. With only a slight dip in energy between DJs, Sasha picked up where Porter left off: housey, techy, and funky. Sasha's first few tracks quickly re-established the momentum that Porter had left to him. I prayed he would continue the sound he had started with and would surge through the entire night's set without letting up. I have nothing against the more atmospheric sounds of progressive breakbeat that Sasha has recently attached himself to, but at this point if he would have chosen the atmospheric over the battering ram, he would have given the entire club serious EDM blue balls. However, I discovered that not only is Sasha an excellent DJ, but he is a damn good mind reader too. As soon as doubt crept into my mind about his ability to keep this forceful energy going, the sound system suddenly became louder. About four tracks into his set, the Ableton had been cranked up, the bass dropped on the crowd with chest-rattling intensity, and the highs began to click the ears sharply. The night was set for take off. This amazingly potent set that began with Steve Porter would carry its intensity all the way through Sasha's last track. I remained in a happy shock as I realized the Sasha I expected to see, the Sasha that I'd felt had become increasingly disconnected over the past few years, was not performing. Instead, the club destroying DJ who had earned his legendary status had come back to blow the roof off Eleven50.
Even though I was thoroughly enjoying the set, for awhile I had the feeling that Sasha's musical selection for the night might not be what the younger glowstick population came to hear. Many of those near me wearing their ceremonial rave gear seemed hesitant, perhaps waiting for tracks with more pronounced peaks or easily recognizable vocal choruses. But that's not what Sasha had in mind. Rather than dropping an easily dissected set consisting of prog/trance anthems, he chose to link a series of tracks together that find their relevance and complete enjoyment as part of a musical whole, instead of strict intrinsic value. It didn't take a long time for the entire club to be absorbed in the vibe, shattered expectations or not, and everyone was dancing. It's always a good feeling to have such a wide spectrum of people equally connected to the music. Contributing to my surprise at Sasha's performance was watching him operate behind the decks...er, computer/mixer. I'm sure there were people like me expecting the DJs presence to be severly diminished with the complete transference to Ableton Live. Of course no one wants to watch DJ Joe Cubicle performing a point-and-clickathon while perched atop a club as beautiful as Eleven50. Thankfully the Ableton experience was nothing like this. Sasha was working the entire time, DJing in his typical face down and constantly active way...although I didn't see him smoke any; I suppose his new gear cost a little too much to be ashing around. It was good to see the headphones still being employed too, if at least for the visual. As Sasha's set progressed, both dance floors became increasingly crowded. The shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of moving people created an exceptionally hot dance area. Thankfully there was ample room to catch a breathe of air in Eden if need be...and thanks to alcohol I was forced to leave the dancefloor at regular intervals anyway.
Once Sasha had everyone in his grasp he never let go until the night's end. There are always people, whether drunk or just dumb, that scream for the DJ to play another track after the lights have come on. However, this night's closure had a feeling of contentment that I believe others in the recent past have lacked. There seemed to be a general agreement that this was worth the money. The only thing I felt there was disagreement on was approval of Sasha's switch from spinning records to using Ableton Live. I am admittedly not the most technically literate person when it comes to DJ equipment, production equipment etc etc. I can't give you an argument for why Sasha continues to be or has ceased to be the textbook definition of a DJ. However, in a genre starting with the word 'electronic,' no one can expect the technology that spreads and creates the music to ever halt to a satisfying stop; be happy for that. Bottom line, be as nostalgic or as forward thinking as you want to be; if you can move a crowd and give them the feeling they came looking to you for, then nothing else really matters. Sasha's performance has made me excited about the introduction of new technology into the music I love, and I anticipate many great things in the future.
Sasha - Fundacion NYC
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