Sunday got the ball rolling early, as Australian duo New World Sound got the festivities off to a bouncing start. Following their lead, Moska brought his “jungle terror” sound to the dance floor and kept everyone on their feet. The energy didn’t stop as the pair of Pegboard Nerds took to the decks with their massive dubstep sound. Personally, I found that Pegboard Nerds’ sound fits more acutely toward the latter half of a night. They pick up the pace right after the main acts and keep the night going, but their electro and dubstep tracks are almost too high energy for an opening act. Either that, or their just not my cup of tea.
Opening up with his humongous collaboration with DVBBS, in “Tsunami,” Borgeous drew fans to the dance floor with his vocal-melody sound. I couldn’t help but dance to his huge hits “Invincible” and “Breathe,” even if it was on my way out to sit down in the bleachers. He gets the job done after all, he fills the pit and keeps the people dancing, and I can respect that, but nothing I heard from last weekend really grabbed my attention.
Los Angeles native, Mackenzie Johnson, otherwise known as Makj, took the decks for a wild set from start to finish. With a huge collection of chart-topping singles in his library, Makj has been on a tear production-wise, from “Derp” to his collaboration with Hardwell in “Countdown,” to his new free download with Deorro “READY!” and his secret VIP for his collaboration with M35 in “GO,” Makj songs can be heard in sets around the world. And yet, he still managed to bring tons of new music to his set on Sunday. A West Coast boy at heart, Makj seamlessly weaved in the likes of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg with some Melbourne bounce and electro house. There was one point in his set, where his sample of Linkin Park and Jay-Z’s “Encore/Numb” slowly turned into a nu-jazz/disco remix. Looking over at my friends, all the while dancing and bobbing our head, it finally hit us what he was playing, and that it was working! Makj mixes it up so well, from his house and hip-hop roots to his heavy hitting bounce sound he’s known for, his set was definitely a crowd favorite for the night.
Hailing from the Netherlands, Blasterjaxx have been all over the world, and San Diego gave them a warm welcome for Tramps Like Us. Though at times their sets fall into the lull of “big room” monotony, they keep the crowd alive with their impeccable production and track selection. And at times they do slow down their set with vocal melodies, but the pace kicks right back up when the beat drops. From their massive release with fellow Tramps Like Us artist W&W with “Rocket,” to their remix of David Guetta’s “Lover’s on the Sun,” to bringing in new sounds from Happy Enemies & Nicci with “Zorro,” the highs outweigh the lows within their set, and I hope LED brings them back for future shows!
Before I get into the next act, and arguably the biggest one for this year’s Tramps Like Us, I must start by saying that I am a huge supporter of W&W’s production. Their singles and remixes are top notch, like their remix of Zombie Nation’s iconic “Kernkraft 400” and Duke Dumont’s feels-inducing “I Got U,” there is no denying that Willem and Ward can still get the crowd moving, even if they’ve moved past their trance roots.
But my god, for the love of electronic music, please stop giving into the hype of W&W. About three songs into their set, with three equally long build ups and breakdowns, it dawned on me how formulaic their live mixing is. Building up one song, they demand the energy from the crowd, calling out to them to raise their hands up, and instead of returning that same energy right back to them with a high-power drop, they let the beat go into silence, killing any source of rhythm, momentum and musicality they had spent so long to build up. 90 percent of the time, the silence was followed by a cheesy vocal melody to grab the crowd’s attention and re-establish said rhythm they had idiotically lost. With a huge proportion of said crowd under some kind of influence, they raise the hands in the sky belting out whatever vaguely generic pop lyric they can latch on to. And once they have you there, they start winding the build-up, and the cycle begins all over again. The sad part is, that with all the constant loops it’s not even music at all. It’s just loud noises and bright lights at this point. W&W were once renowned for their beautiful melodies and driving trance productions. But this shitty excuse for “music” is insulting to any fan of electronic dance music. What bothers me the most is how abundantly they abused this. It’s one thing to include it once or twice in your set, that’s understandable: the crowd needs some rest and you’re going to build them up again. But time and time again, I heard silence in the LEDome. When a set is 51 percent based on a “lack of sound,” where is the musical integrity there? When your “build-ups” are just the forced repetition of sounds with no regard for a beat, where is the musical integrity there? And when you do it over and over again for the entire night, where is the musical integrity there?! Big Room has been the hype for some time, but this insane excuse for DJ’ing needs to stop. Sitting from the stands, even W&W looked bored up there, as if they were content phoning in another “performance.” Deep down I still believe Willem and Ward have what it takes. But with the allure of playing the sold-out main stage crowd of zombified “fans” with no inkling of musical taste, all the while making the big bucks, it’s clear that W&W have chosen money over music.
With a sour taste in my mouth, it was onto the final act for this year’s Tramps Like Us. Shifting from the hardstyle scene to the mainstream much like fellow producers, Showtek, Headhunterz has been steadily gaining momentum over the past year. While the first ten or so minutes were an uneasy transition out of big room (ie. following the same W&W routine), I was so ready to stop hating and enjoy my time dancing. And thank god the hardstyle kicked in: taking to the mics, Headhunterz proudly remarked “I bet half of you don’t even know what’s happening right now, this is hardstyle,” as the words “Love it or Leave it” scrolled on the center LED panel behind him. At 140 beats per minute, Hardstyle is not a genre for the feint hearted. Body shaking bass kicks with shredding synths, Headhunterz was on his way to a legendary set at the LEDome. Every time he grabbed the mic, his enthusiasm sounded so pure that you just had to dance, no matter how late it was. Pushing past the 4 a.m. set time, Headhunterz led a final rally that lasted another 30 minutes of pure hardstyle heaven. One of the first genres that hooked me into the electronic dance music scene, I’m glad to see hardstyle gain the attention it has as of late. From full on festivals put together by Insomniac (Harder with Style), to having Headhunterz close out 2014’s Tramps Like Us, hardstyle is slowly solidifying its place in mainstream EDM.
Tramp Like Us 2014 offered San Diego one of the most diverse line-ups LED has put together, and they never fail to disappoint. Coupled with the most on-point insane lasers in the production game (I repeat, step your game up Insomniac and HARD), LED always puts together one hell of a show! With OMFG! New Years right around the corner, I can’t wait to see what myLifeEveryDay has in store for us!