Hard Miami showcases the best of Bromance, BNR and Dirtybird in an unparalleled performance
If musical terrorists existed, Grand Central would have been swarming with Secret Service agents last Thursday.
It’s not often that the bosses of arguably the three most forward-thinking dance music labels on the planet convene under one roof. With surprise special guest Boys Noize joining an already loaded lineup of Bromance buddies Brodinski and Gesaffelstein and Dirtybird owners Claude VonStroke and Justin Martin, Hard Miami’s second night was akin to a diplomatic summit between techno, electro and tech funk pioneers. At least throw Kavinsky in a bomb shelter or something so dance music can soldier on in case of catastrophe.
While Oliver and Destructo did a fine job warming up the room before a surprise disco-house set from Skream, the energy understandably escalated as Brodinski took the stage against a flickering blue LED backdrop. The Bromance label head really has a way of moving with his music, twisting his frame and gyrating with each audible effect. With quick cuts to filtered-up fake-outs, the artist thrilled the sellout crowd with his unpredictable energy. On his deliciously dark single “Let the Beat Control Your Body,” Brodinski delighted the audience by looping the vocals of Louisahhh!!! and pitch-shifting them down and up, building slowly into a shrill wall of sound before letting the twisted synth drop take over. His set careened through a staggering number of tracks, including label-mate Jacques Lu Cont’s electro-laden “In the Night,” before the ambulance siren and raspy whisper of “Nobody Rules the Streets” announced its end.
As booming trap beats shook the venue, Gesaffelstein joined his partner-in-crime for a decidedly bromantic hug in the booth before taking over the reins. A dark well-dressed specter in the pulsing glow of blue strobes, Gesaffelstein raised a single finger to his patiently pursed lips until the crowd settled down. As an expectant air of uncertainty took hold, the French phenomenon plunged Grand Central into an apocalyptic soundscape of unrelenting dark techno. Gesaffelstein did unspeakable things to the iconic percussive line of Plastikman’s “Spastik” as a lead-in to his own sinister masterpiece “Control Movement.”
As the crowd surged beneath the track’s howling synths and gritty percussion, a visible change came over the usually stoic performer. Gesaffelstein ditched the trademark black sports coat, allowing his black-lit white shirt to flare open at the collar as he became increasingly animated, furiously cutting between tracks with the mixer’s crossfader. As his set descended into the modular mayhem of Planetary Assault System’s “Kray Squid,” he began bouncing around the booth and beckoning the crowd further down his foreboding rabbit hole. The last leg of his set resembled an exorcism. Gesaffelstein pummeled the air with his fists and writhed as he threw gratuitous beat repeats into a throwback fusion of Jeff Mills’ “The Bells” and Aphex Twin’s schizophrenic “Verdhosbn.” With the dark spirit of his sound released and throbbing above the spellbound spectators, the ever-poised artist paused to calmly light a cigarette before climaxing with his demonic downtempo gem “Viol.”
The crowd roared with approval as the identity of the second billed special guest was revealed to be Boys Noize. The German producer bounded into the booth for an embrace with Gesaffelstein before building the show from the preceding bleak beats into an electro fever pitch. Boys Noize inherited the onstage energy of his predecessor, throttling his body about the booth with such force that his hat barely clung to his head. It didn’t take long before “Next Order,” his acid-bass driven collaboration with Skrillex as Dog Blood, made an appearance, heralding the eclectic electro storm to come. From the vocoded ramblings and bizarre beats of UHU’s “Stajklojamas Machinas Musika” to the calculated dissonance of “Click Track” by Señor Lu Cont’s Tracques alias, Boys Noize’s set was a monstrous peak-hour maelstrom that blurred the genre lines as much as any artist on the roster. It also became clear that the organizers had done their homework in planning the progression of top shelf artists. Boys Noize was the perfect choice to propel the preceding dark feeling into primetime form.
As the dust settled from the hardest sets of the evening, Dirtybird deviants Claude VonStroke and Justin Martin swooped in to sweep up the wreckage with a jackin’ b2b set that showcased the sonic diversity of their swanky San Francisco label. As fastidious fans hoisted ginormous cutouts of the duo’s heads in time with the tunes, the twosome ushered the remaining stalwarts upon a funky house safari through hip-hop inspired beats and deep bellowing bass-lines. The set was full of the fun-loving weirdness that Dirtybird is synonymous with. When someone handed him an exceedingly random puppet, Justin Martin happily made it dance for a bit before hurling it back into the crowd. At another point, the giant heads somehow made their way onstage, where they were eagerly adopted by the easygoing artists.
The music had just as much personality as the musicians. Known for their sprawling stylistic range, Claude and Justin offered up such divergent helpings as DJ Snake’s trap rager “Bird Machine” and the mangled techno of Maetrik’s “Socom,” before winding the night down with Justin Martin’s underrated original mix of “Don’t Go.” When the venue finally cut the sound well after 5 a.m., Claude and Justin stayed behind to schmooze with fans, thanking them profusely through the bared teeth of beaming smiles. It was a fitting end to a singular night in which the artists had clearly enjoyed themselves just as much as the audience, a shared ebullient spirit that was etched into each of the Dirtybirds’ flushed faces.
Photo Credit: GLENJAMN