Let me preface this review by saying I don’t think I’ve ever heard the airhorn played as much at any concert or any radio show as I did on this fateful night. The airhorn is a symbol of DJs and live performance since the dawn of radio, and it received just about as much airtime as any song might in this musty crowded venue. Now, most would frown and say, “the airhorn during a DJ show? That’s just a cop out” but not at the Middle East on Thursday night. No, the airhorn added a certain sense of atmosphere to the venue; a sense of excitement for what was to come. It added joviality, innocence, and enthusiasm to the character of the producer who created the #1 hit on iTunes, and the guru of Hip-Hop production. But let’s take a step back and start it over from before the airhorn came into play, from before Baauer and Just Blaze murdered our eardrums, and before we knew what madness was in store for us.
First off, getting to the Middle East before 10:00 is always a good idea. You’ll get the opportunity to see some great openers, the coat check [usually] isn’t full, and you have a bit of room to dance around. However, when it’s a sold out show, things tend to move a bit differently. There are a lot more people there than you expected, the coat check could be completely full and your coats might get thrown on the ground and getting to the front of the stage isn’t really that easy. It’s actually kind of exciting really; you start to think to yourself, “if this is what it’s like now, imagine how bumpin’ this place will be in an hour!” as you dance your hearts out to the sounds of trap, drum n bass, and a bit of dub and electro.
There were several of openers at the show that quite frankly, I wasn’t too impressed with. It might have been that I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to them, or that I had heard all the songs before and the mixing techniques were bland, but that was to be expected. It wasn’t until a short man by the name of Voltran approached the decks that the place really got groovin’, and that’s no joke. Voltran murdered the decks, dropping tracks like TNIGHT’s ‘Higher Ground’, the trap anthem ‘Represent Yo City’ by Brillz and ETC!ETC, and flippin remixes of Lil Jon’s ‘Snap Yo Fingaz’ and J-Kwon’s Tipsy. Props to Voltran for getting the crowd ready for [possibly] the most epic show of the month.
Now before I go into Just Blaze’s set, let’s look at some of the man’s accomplishments in the music business for anyone who’s not familiar. The man is, first and foremost, a musical Hip Hop genius, with over 10+ hits in US’ Hot 100, R&B, and Rap charts. He’s most notable for producing Jay Z’s Blueprint albums, but he’s also done a ton of singles that you might know. Does Freeway’s ‘What We Do’, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Compton’, or Kanye and Lupe’s ‘Touch The Sky’ ring any bells? Yeah, call it Just Blaze productions.
But back to the show, Just Blaze had the crowd in the palm of his hands. I’m serious, he literally could do just about anything he wanted, and the crowd would’ve eaten it all up. Maybe that’s why the airhorn got so much airtime, or maybe he was just drunk [note the Jameson bottle above]. After hyping up the crowd, he dropped Jay Z’s ‘Public Service Announcement’ for his first track and the Middle East went insane. After Hov’s famous line, Just Blaze spun it back and let the record go once more, just to make sure we all knew what we were getting into. From there, we heard everything between Joe Budden’s ‘Pump it Up’ and T.I’s ‘What You Know’ to A$AP Rocky’s ‘Fuckin Problem’, mixed seamlessly through scratch routines, a bit of beat juggling, and of course call and responses between Just Blaze and the crowd. To my surprise he even remixed DMX’s ‘Ruff Ryder’s Anthem’ live and dropped Kanye’s ‘Power’ alongside the fun loving “If You’re Ready and You Know It Clap Your Hands”. If anybody can get a crowd movin and grindin’ while getting drunk out of their mind off of the fine taste of Jameson, it’s Just Blaze.
When Baauer approached the decks alongside Just Blaze, personally I thought most women in the crowd were going to faint. Screams shot throughout the venue like Michael Jackson (in the olden days) just popped up, and it made for a pretty lively experience. Calm as hell though, Baauer simply set up his Launchpad for Ableton alongside the CDJs, glanced at Just Blaze and as they shared a look of, “Alright, let’s give them a show” (as if they hadn’t already), Baauer started his set with Just Blaze as his emcee. The two worked perfectly together, vibing off one another’s energy as if they were old buds, and you can’t really get much better than that. Baauer kept up with Just Blaze’s Hip-Hop set eventually moving into his favored Trap realm, but even so it still felt like a Hip-Hop concert at the Middle East. We heard all of our favorites from Baauer’s remix of ‘Rollup’ by Flosstradamus, ‘In My Nose’, ‘DumDum’ and ‘Yaow’ along with a plethora of unreleased remixes that people couldn’t stop dancing too. I’d be doing this review a diservice if I didn’t mention the amount of anticipation there was for Baauer’s #1 viral hit on iTunes, ‘Harlem Shake’, and while you think you’ve heard the track enough times, nothing beats hearing it while watching Baauer jump up and down along side of you. Plus, Baauer threw in an extra trappy remix of it just to keep us going, which had the crowd going wild.
All in all, this was one of the best shows I’ve been to in Boston, Massachusetts. Landing on Valentine’s Day made the show just a bit more lovable. The vibe was incredible, with Hip-Hop heads, electronic heads and trap heads all coming together to enjoy a show unlike any other. Near the end Baauer and Just Blaze came together for the last 30 minutes of a set, playing tracks like ‘Jump On’ by The Sugarhill Gang just to get things poppin once more. They even asked us if we wanted to leave, telling us that the club had to shut down. An emphatic “No!” kept the show going for another 45 minutes. Finally, as Just Blaze neared his alcohol intake while attempting to mix electronic music, he needed a rescue from Baauer. Sometimes that Jameson can be just a bit much for people to handle.
Props to Embrace Boston for putting on a killer sold out show on Valentine’s Day. Check out their Harlem Shake video below: