Designer Drugs @ Mod Club, Toronto: June 10, 2011
Reviewed by Scott Willats
With the spring season in full effect, Toronto has been a hotbed for electro artists of all sorts over the past month. It feels like every other night the amazing people at Embrace are throwing a crazy event featuring some of the world’s best up-and-comers in the new music scene. Friday night was no exception, hosting three very different concerts throughout our mean streets. The one I chose featured a group that is a personal favourite of mine — and in hindsight, I believe I chose the best venue.
For the past year and half the New York duo Designer Drugs have been thumping out sick remixes every two weeks. Along with a debut album Hardcore/Softcore and their insane mixtapes, The Data Mix Collections, these two New York hoodlums have been destroying the North American scene with their pop-banger glamour glitz feel. However they have also been pigeonholed and stuck into the zone our scene struggles with, and that’s our genre ‘snobbiness.” Many fans they have, yes — but they equal that with critics. Some believe them to be true electro and gifted performers, while others claim they’re a little overhyped. I was able to leave all prejudice behind and see how these two “Goodfellas” were going to treat Toronto.
As I stated before, the weekends are fast and furious lately, with many options of venues to attend. Designer Drugs would, on any other night, be the prime target for almost any electro fan — but the man of the hour, Julio Bashmore (another Embrace event), was only a couple of streets down at Wrongbar, and it left many fans with a tugging decision. So to be quite fair, I must say the turnout for Designer Drugs was a little upsetting. Maybe I hold these two a little higher in my regard that the majority — but I was expecting a lineup of fans sprawling to Christie Street, and instead it was very spacious at the beginning. Still, that wasn’t going to affect the mood: some of the best sets I’ve ever heard have been performed for small crowds, and usually you’ll get a much more intimate feel.
A few drinks later and we’re preparing for them to take the stage, when to my surprise only one of the tag team duo comes out. Michael Vincent Patrick was the only DJ on the Pioneers. I never got the story of what had happened, but Theodore Paul Nelson was nowhere to be found. Music is music, but when you’re attending a show you’ve been looking forward to for a while, it’s natural to feel a little disappointed when only half of the act shows up. I must admit, I was thinking, “Was Julio Bashmore the better place to be?” My answer would come shortly.
Not a chance in hell! That’s what Designer Drugs do to you when they hit their peak. They put you in a zone where the heat from the speakers is the same flame that blazes in hell. The set was fire. Michael Vincent Patrick, or MVP, never stopped moving once he took over the decks.
Some DJs let the music speak for them, and some DJs act as fans as well — or at least inspire you with their stage presence (eg. Steve Aoki). The music MVP played was some of the best trashy electro I’ve heard in 2011. The theme song being “Drop Down,” which got us in that very dramatic, Goth-like mood. The hard claps and pounding bass kept everyone’s heads bobbing at 128 beat per minute. The IAMX remix came on, and the vocals had everyone screaming out. The Klaxons remix did more of the same. And then, like Lebron James in that zone where he can’t miss, Michael Vincent Patrick just blacked out: 30 minutes of cuts and slices of songs that we (or at least I) have never heard before. He never let a song play more than 1:30, and never let us miss the best part of every track. The crowd rushed the stage, and just when there were more people up there than in the crowd … silence. Designer Drugs killed the show so bad that the music stopped, as someone raving too hard dislodged a cable. It was Epic.
It was a great moment, but it did take away from his momentum, and as candid as it was I think it would have had to upset him. However, the show went on and the beats continued. ”Antonio” raised the energy, “Zombies” turned us into zombies, and “Facemelter” melted our faces. The biggest tune of the night, other than some he bumped during his “blackout,” was a song I need you to take home: “Dead Meat” is easily one of Designer Drugs’ theme songs, and a track instantly recognizable to those who know them — but the Fukkk Offf remix is something special. The heavy bass wobble at the end, the screaming in the middle … it just sounds so BIG! LISTEN TO IT HERE.
A highlight of the night for me was running into an up-and-coming Toronto producer who goes by the name SposhRock. I’m sure some of you are familiar with the young prodigy, and it was good to get a producer’s opinion of the state of the genre right now. A huge thanks has to go out to the people at Embrace who continue to bring the best acts to the city. The definition of consistency. Sitting beside a 19-year-old who is sure to be performing these venues and listening to some of North America’s best new talents, it’s safe to say: these Designer Drugs don’t leave u sketchy, but like their namesake they keep you craving for more!
Scott Willats can be seen on bpm Spotlight, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 pm ET. CHECK OUT HIS TUMBLR!