Bassnectar pollinated by thousands of Bass Heads in Oakland (12/11)

Maybe it’s a case of home court advantage, but the Bay Area goes apeshit for Bassnectar. Not only did last night’s performance at Oakland’s Fox Theater sell out well in advance (like many of his shows), but folks came prepared and anxious. People were clamoring for him all night, which was at times unfair to the impressive opening acts.

Both Oakland’s AmpLive and Eskmo from across the Bay had a full hour to strut their stuff. AmpLive, the producer/DJ that makes up one half of Zion I, got the early crowd energized with a mix of hip-hop, breakbeat, and dubstep. He was no space filler; Amp came out with his Mac, a sequencer, and two flat-screen TV’s for some homemade visuals. His recipe for keeping the crowd’s attention: play some Radiohead, show lots of Thom Yorke visuals, and play a prerecorded message describing his feelings about In Rainbows and a cease-and-desist letter he received for his Rainydayz Remixes of the album. Also, bringing out Zion I’s MC Zumbi was sure to be a crowd pleaser (apeshittery was in full force for that). You couldn’t ask for more from the opening act at any show.

Eskmo got the job done as well. He had more trouble keeping the energy up, but the Ninja Tune signee had some moments of brilliance. His signature is to make sure you know he’s doing stuff up there besides pressing buttons. He always had a shaker in hand, with his synth tilted towards the audience. Good to see a DJ go the extra mile.

It was clearly a problem for some of the drunker members of the audience that these two opening acts represented half of the four-hour show. While Eskmo was solid and earned some respect, you can be sure the Bassnectar chants begun immediately after he thanked the crowd and left.

The all-ages show fell on a Saturday night near the end of the school semester; as a result, the floor was filled to the brim with sex-crazed, wasted 17-year-olds wearing face paint. Evidently, other grown adults were bothered by this as well — almost invariably, the further back you went, the older the fans were. But it made for an ideal environment no matter where you were. Once Bassnectar came on, the house was moving from front to back with very few exceptions.

San Francisco’s Bassnectar (a.k.a. Lorin Ashton) plays a mish-mash of genres, from dubstep to IDM to metal to hip-hop, but one common thread connects all of his live show — heavy, chest-thumping bass. He calls his fans “Bass Heads” for a reason; if you pay for a Bassnectar show, you are paying for that unholy monster beat to kick your ass for a couple of hours. Frankly, this is pretty much what you get musically. It sounds like a simple concept, but mixing together seamless transitions for two hours is no cakewalk.

That’s just what Ashton did Saturday, touring behind his latest EP Wildstyle. He played original material, but he also threw in some of your favorites (Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick, Push”, Massive Attack’s “Inertia Creeps”) and some that you forgot were your favorites (The Cranberries’ “Zombie”, Nelly Furtado’s “Turn off the Lights”). And my, was it heavy. If Satan were to rid the world of electric guitars tomorrow, Metallica could use some tips from Bassnectar to fill in the gaps.

It seemed like a no-brainer for Zumbi to come back out and perform “Teleport Massive” off last year’s Cozza Frenzy with Ashton, but these things never seem to happen in real life. Indeed, Bassnectar had on no special guests. However, it wasn’t just a long-haired hippie and a laptop up there; Ashton was accompanied by some gigantic screens displaying intermittent visuals — themes included old films, dominoes, environmental issues, and canned foods. The visuals were less telling of Bassnectar’s newfound popularity than the screens themselves. Just a few years ago, it was hard to imagine him playing a venue large enough to have wall-sized screens supporting him. Now the screens are here to stay, and people go apeshit for them.

Photography by Maria Marucut.

Gallery by Maria Marucut

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