This review of the Decibel Festival was written by Jennifer Green.
Decibel Music Festival is a handcrafted electronic music performance and visual arts festival designed specifically for music lovers. I am no fool when it comes to festivals. This summer alone I attended Lollapalooza, Wavefront Music Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, and the North Coast Music Festival. And every Memorial Weekend, I travel home to Detroit for Movement aka DEMF. I traveled from Chicago to Seattle just for Decibel. I was very eager to explore the Emerald City and its nightlife scene.
After exploring the city a bit and resting up I was ready to have my first taste of Decibel. First up, The Hyperdub Records Showcase at The Crocodile on Wednesday featuring Jimi Jaxon, DJ Spinn, Ikonika and Kode 9. The only female on the Hyperdub live showcase was Ikonika and best believe she held it down with hard hitting club beats, bass lines, rattles and synths. I was able to identify her track “Mr. Cake” among the various samples of female vocals she used. I loved hearing Aaliyah, Rihanna and Ciara’s “Body Party” through the bumping sound system at The Crocodile. Ikonika shut it all down with probably one of the most filthiest dub tracks I have ever heard.
Next up on the Hyperdub Showcase was yet another name that was no secret to me. You cannot live in Chicago for five years and not know anything about TEKLIFE. I was observing the crowd, checking to see if everyone else was ready for Chicago’s own, DJ Spinn. Originally scheduled on the roster was DJ Rashad, but due to a recent car accident he was unable to perform. The very lively DJ Spinn started his set sending blessings for a speedy recovery to DJ Rashad on the mic, followed by a “let’s turn this bitch out!” Luckily, this past summer I got to see the entire TEKLIFE crew throw down at Boiler Room in Chicago during Pitchfork weekend which was a real treat. During DJ Spinn’s set I heard M.I.A.’s “XR2” beat; multiple TEKLIFE releases like DJ Rashad & Freshmoon’s “Everybody”, DJ Rashad & DJ Manny’s “Drums Please”, and DJ Rashad & Spinn & Taso’s “Where Da Weed At”; and then Jay-Z’s “Tom Ford”. The highlight of this hyphy TEKLIFE set was hearing A$AP Ferg mashed with Kanye West’s “Mercy” against visuals of Polynesian hula dancers with their puili sticks.
After DJ Spinn’s set, I went to Showbox Market for the Abstract Earth Project Showcase featuring Wax Tailor and Blockhead. I was very excited being that Wax Tailor had a full live band that night and I’ve been a longtime Blockhead listener. Let me start off by saying, Showbox at the Market is an absolutely beautiful venue, it’s dripping with giant glass chandeliers. Wax Tailor pit a spell on the crowd, everyone was dancing and singing—it was probably the best party to walk into. Seeing the french trip-hop based group perform both “Que Sera” and “Say Yes” live was immaculate. There was great sound along with lights and lazers visuals in colors of red, blue and purple danced across the ceiling. Most of the crowd cleared out after Wax Tailor, the vibe changed and a younger crowd was ready to groove.
According to the schedule, Blockhead was to take stage before Wax Tailor but ended up taking stage around 12:15 a.m. The NYC-based beatmaker thanked the crowd for “staying up” but there was no one upset on this dancefloor. If you looked around, everyone was moving and smiling. It was a very fun set as we heard tracks like Clipse’s “Grindin”, DMX’s “What These Bitches Want”, and even the Temptations – “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”. We also hear some Marvin Gaye, Amerie and David Banner. Needless to say, Blockhead’s Decibel DJ set had a lot of themes. Textured with kickdrums, it was layered with funky intros, soul verses, jazz melodies then cut in with a rock n roll riffs against a hip-hop beats. At one point, I swear, he played the Sanford & Son theme song and mixed it with a dreamy glitchy beat.
I had a lot of favorite moments during Blockhead’s set; I finally got to hear “Never Forget Your Token” from his most recent album, Interludes After Midnight. Blockhead was singing and dancing throughout his entire set, providing us with energy to feed off. I have to tip my hat off to Epic Lasers on the visuals because the dub/psychedelic parts of Blockhead’s set were matched to a trippy looking live-feed kaleidoscope image. As we all know, all good things must come to an end – same went for this epic dance party that traveled through all genres. Blockhead closed his set playing his buddy Aesop Rock’s “Daylight”, which was a great way to end day one of Decibel.