Deadmau5 played the first of two sold-out shows at Chicago’s historic Aragon Ballroom last night courtesy of React Presents. Part of his Lots of Shows in a Row Tour, the Thursday night show was an extravaganza of technology and music, proving Joel Zimmerman is truly in a class of his own. The Cube 2.1 defied all expectations, with state-of-the-art visuals and lights enhancing the entire experience of the music.
It’s impossible to say Deadmau5 is just a producer, because his music has a cinematic quality that renders him more of a proper composer, proving that his symbiotic relationship with technology assists rather than detracts from his artistry and talents. He masterfully creates an emotional melody that begins softly and swells with the addition of the bassline, culminating into an all-out rave frenzy. The relentlessness of the bass in his tracks made continual dancing a requirement last night.
A bulk of his setlist was comprised of tracks from his newest album, W:/2016ALBUM/, with the vocal elements of the Grabbitz collaboration “Let Go” washing over the crowd. He also played “Polaris” which in its unreleased form quickly became a fan favorite; the track hadn’t been released until its inclusion on label mau5trap compilation album We Are Friends Vol 6.
Of course, he included the hits, such as the beautifully uplifting sci-fi track “The Veldt” and “Ghosts n Stuff,” both of which prompted enthusiastic reactions from the fans. Of note was an interesting foray into a few hip hip-orientated tracks during the middle of his set, which made evident the crowd’s enjoyment in a city noted for its contributions to that genre. Zimmerman didn’t rely on just one genre of dance music, playing one dubstep mix at the end, before offering a genuine thank you to the audience.
Deadmau5 was in fine form, playing up his persona of internet troll and humorous tech geek all night, with a funny visual of his cat, Meowingtons, during the track “Cat Thruster” and descending to the stage clutching a beer and cigarette, as if in character. Perhaps the best moment of this was when he decried using the stairs in the Cube, and exclaimed “next year, we will build an elevator and make the Chainsmokers pay for it” in a delightful excoriation and send-up of both commercial pop and President Trump.
Opening act FeedMe, from the mau5trap label roster, warmed the audience up with an hour-long set of aggressive, ceaseless basslines and clattering synths. His music clearly takes inspiration from Deadmau5, but with a darker quality that acted as a foil to the positive vibes of Zimmerman’s music. The venue, the famed Aragon Ballroom, had all the trappings of a 1920s theatre, but the aesthetic didn’t overwhelm or supersede the design of the Deadmau5 show. The audience was a mixture of EDM bros, club girls, and nerdy mau5 fans, proving that the dance genre is truly about unity in diversity—an antidote to today’s social divisions.