It must be hard being one of the three doormen at Volar, especially when a name act like DJ Shadow is about to do a set.

On the left of the gate are those that want to fork over $300 a ticket, the mini-skirted patrons of brand names and bling bling. In the middle are the hit or miss masses who know somebody who know somebody who supposedly put them on the guest list. And to the right are the ones who HAVE to be let in because they’re Somebody and because everybody they know is downstairs just waiting for them to make their magic arrival.

Downstairs, in the main room, up on a stage, with two slickly animated collage screens behind him, is DJ Shadow. He has been and always will be an unassuming guy, this time sporting a San Francisco Giants baseball cap, a flannel shirt and a bit of stubble. “As many of you know, I’m from the Bay Area,” he says by way of introduction before playing a largely uptempo set made up of head bobbing lo-fi rap, electronic squelching, spoken interludes and bass shattering blips and bleeps that sound like Skrillex’s nastier cousin.
It’s a vastly different set from his appearance at Hong Kong’s Western Market (a more ideally suited venue for him) or his still memorable downbeat foray with DJ Krush in Causeway Bay following the release of his classic debut.


But it’s a good, exciting, adrenaline raising session. He appears to have ditched the turntables in favor of two CDJ decks and a memory stick, yet still has that distinct ability to create a sound collage, raise the complexity, build the interest and destroy it all over again in favor of the next one. “A lot of DJs like to rest on their past glories, but not me,” he says humbly to the audience. “I like to keep up with what’s going on and play all different genres. I like all types of music.”

That he proves with a few gritty reggae tracks and inexplicably, both Coldplay and Elton John numbers which are anchored by a faint hip hop beat. There’s also one lone nod to his past, “Organ Donor”, which he introduces by claiming it’s one of the few old songs from his repertoire he’ll be unveiling.

“This is so awesome dude,” says one completely overenthused and lubricated American geek to his buddy before giving each other high fives. And it was—a classy, exhilarating, energetic set by someone whose talent is so much more than the sum of his recorded output.

Fortunately, he wasn’t in the crowd though, where longtime fans had to deal with a barrage of pushing and pulling that it would be enough for anyone to go postal. A few inexplicably brought glowsticks while others seemed content to call up Facebook on their mobile phones amidst the crowd during the middle of the set. But it was the weaving, bobbing and pushing by a sea of fratboys that got the goat of many—stunts that would have insured they got their asses kicked from here to Arizona if they ever attempted such buffoonery in the States.

“It’s a great set by a great guy in a pretty good club that’s somehow filled with douches,” said one attendee in passing.

That pretty much summed it up.

Review by Scott Murphy


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