Boys Noize devours New York’s Output on inspiring two-night run [Event Review]
When I found out Boys Noize had two upcoming shows in New York at Output, I deliberated whether or not to review his show again. I had already wrote about Boys Noize’s performance at Electric Zoo this year, and with his performance looming at HARD Event’s Day of the Dead festival in less than two weeks, another set review seemed overkill. I debated which days to go, and decided to ask around.
“You need to come both nights,” his camp told me. “These are going to be two different shows.”
That spooked me. When an artist is scheduled to play two shows at the same venue, you rarely get two transcendent performances. Eric Prydz’s masterpiece the week before was an anomaly. The feat is painfully tough from the artist’s point of view. How do you reconcile people that are only seeing you one night with those here to see you both nights? The second set has to be just as impressive as the first one, possibly even more. Yet you cannot hold back during the first night and disappoint. Boys Noize did just that.
It’s more than just changing songs. Artists have to carefully mold different moods and musical journeys for each set to distinguish between the two nights. Fans want to see the hard techno Alex Ridha of old mixed with the new age Boys Noize of Dog Blood fame. It’s like asking LeBron James to be his vintage championship self for a game, then repeating the greatness again left-handed.
His first set was classic Boys Noize. Though the two releases (“Inhale/Exhale” and “Starwin”) from his recent Go Hard EP lead off the set, Boys Noize dove into collections deep in his library. Alesia’s “Andrea” and Tom Rowlands’ “Nothing But Pleasure” were two standout tracks that kept the bass and raw beats pounding among his own staple hits like “Go Hard” and “XTC.”
Yet Ridha understands the importance of quick moments for the audience to catch their breaths. He builds a rocking crowd to a frenzy before releasing tension with softer songs: welcome surprises that catch the crowd off guard. The juxtaposition of styles in these moments amplifies the beauty of each song — the bang of the drums are crisper while the flowing melodies are sweeter. Tuesday night’s set was capped by ominous whispers over the beeps of “XTC”. These gave way to Kolsch’s “Goldfish” before Daft Punk’s “One More Time” unexpectedly arrived and washed the previous songs away. With the crowd singing in unison, the set ended on a perfect note.
I looked ahead to Thursday as a redux of the performance two days before. He would take the standout tracks of the previous night, and sprinkle a few songs in to replace other ones. Tuesday’s performance was fun, and a repackaged Boys Noize would still be a far better performance than many other DJ’s. And I was right – he played Aden’s “Luft” and Surkin’s “Warehouse” again, both welcome replays that still ignited the crowd.
Something was different about tonight, however. Alex greeted me before the show in his standard red baseball cap, t-shirt, and skinny jeans. There was a different intensity in his steely eyes. He remained focused on the decks while waiting for the opener to finish, even in conversation. He had a nervous energy about him — you could tell his heart rate was elevated, and he was as fidgety as somebody before their first big show. “I needed rest and preparation for the set tonight,” he tells me. “I’m excited.”
He stepped onto the stage platform, completely engrossed in the music with all hard techno cylinders firing. His famous eyebrows bunch as his hands dance across the decks, only resting to hold the cigarettes he is chain smoking. Tonight’s music starts dark and heavy, and he is relentless with the barrage of underground music, firing off Retro/Grade’s “Pulsar” and Ran Shani’s “Kyoto Nights” after his remix of I-Robot’s “Frau” kicks the night off. Ridha continually toys with EQs and effects, obsessing about the sound until it is just right. Pacing back and forth with a beer in his hands, he seems more in studio than performance mode.
At Output, there are two levels – one on top with a balcony viewing areas, and a grimy dance floor below of spilled drinks, littered cups, and other paraphernalia. Tonight, the top level was virtually empty save a few standing figures watching the scene below as nearly everyone trampled around furiously on the sticky floor. When the Dog Blood’s “Chella Ride” and remix of “Wild for the Night” echoed in the club, the crowd exploded in approval. I had only heard them in massive festival set-ups, where the songs bleed from those speakers among the crowd’s stomping and yelling.
In a small intimate setup, these songs realized their full, grand potential. The yells “Get up, get up, get up – let’s go!” packed a wallop, while Alex’s trademark techno alongside Skrillex’s signature screeches burst forth in perfect clarity. The resulting aural nirvana inspired much of the Output crowd to uncontrollably yell and flail with the beat. The freakish purpose of the supergroup is realized, and through its own absurd charm, is quite breathtaking.
This night was all about Alex’s love for music. He is willing to throw down David Heartbreak’s “Acid Youths” with “Outrun” by Thomas Bangalter. The audience croons with him while the choruses of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” and Disclosure’s “Latch” float through passages. For a brief moment, he lets down his guard and invites Spank Rock on stage to perform a killer new exclusive. Grinning and dancing himself, he reveals how much he is relishing the night as well.
As a spectator, you sense that he has been waiting for this opportunity to mix and play with such freedom. Playing well into hour 4 and 5, Boys Noize soon realizes his time is almost up, and soaks it all in. He takes a picture of the crowd (the outrage – at Output!), arguably even more full than when the set started to commemorate the moment personally, not for public show on social media. His night winds down (Cashmere Cat’s perfect edit of Miguel’s “Do You” is stunning), and in a stunning surprise, the light pitter patter of Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” streams through. Slowed to half time and lowered an octave, Ridha eventually restores the song to its glory, and the fans respond with deafening approval. Few moments are special like this, and the entire club enjoys it, until the music slowly fades out. His team greets him at the stage, and he relaxes, arms around his extended family in calm content.
“The energy tonight – incredible…” he begins. “I was so into it – in the zone. It’s rare…” His words come out broken and stammering, drained after 4 hours of channeled energy and heart. Everybody around him nods knowingly and appreciably.
What more is there to say? We were speechless as well.