Steve Aoki | Santa Barbara | Review | Photos

Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann

Steve Aoki, Datsik, Dirtyphonics and Tommy Noble :: 01.20.12 :: Earl Warren Showgrounds :: Santa Barbara, CA

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Steve Aoki by L. Paul Mann
Steve Aoki returned to his roots to play two shows in Santa Barbara on January 20th. The first was a showcase concert at UCSB, his old Alma Mater. His career in music began in Isla Vista, where he staged countless underground concerts in his “Biko Room” where he lived in his college days. The master producer then formed his own record label, Dim Mak, in 1996. His work as a producer and collaborator was already legendary by the time he released his own first recording in 1998, “Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles”. Since then he has become one of the most played remix artists in nightclubs around the world. Although he is not as well known as EDM pop DJ's like Euro superstar Tiesto or American favorite Deadmau5, his production and remix tentacles have a much more far reaching influence than most of his contemporaries. His brand of music is considered hardcore, sort of like the Nine Inch Nails or Black Sabbath of EDM, and his live shows have generated a large, fanatical following.

His second show in Santa Barbara was a much more elaborate affair than the University showcase, taking place in one of the concrete block houses in the Earl Warren Showgrounds. The Showgrounds have a long history of producing legendary live concerts in Santa Barbara long before venues like the Santa Barbara Bowl were utilized. In the 60s many of the most popular bands in the world played there, including Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. The cavernous hall utilized by Aoki and his army of opening DJ's may not have had very good acoustics but this was somewhat remedied by the massive bass speakers, necessary for the full effect of the thunderous, hypnotic dance beats. An ear-shattering decibel level overcame the building’s acoustic shortcomings - a level so loud that the show could have not taken place legally anywhere outdoors in Santa Barbara.

Datsik by L. Paul Mann
The music began early in the evening, with many in the 18 and under admission line waiting patiently for over an hour to get inside. Older attendees had an easier time of it with a fast track line to the inside and a private bar for the “elderly” 21 and up crowd. But this show was dominated by a festive, rave fashioned audience of eager young teenagers with tongues wagging and rolling in ecstatic excitement. Nearly three and a half hours after the event started and four sets in to the evening, second in command Datsik (AKA Troy Beetles) was still performing to a packed room of dance tranced music fans. Datsik is a dubstep DJ from British Columbia, and has several club hits in the last few years.

By the time Aoki started his set at 10.45 pm most everyone in the crowd was engrossed in a sweaty surge towards the stage. As the evening progressed, each new DJ booth grew larger higher and more elaborate. By the time Aoki was revealed to the crowd his massive DJ booth towered above the audience, almost touching the ceiling. As soon as he began, the master mixer had the crowd engaged in a dancing frenzy. Like a wizard waving his wand, Aoki began to mix and flail about like a conductor of a possessed orchestra. Part of the appeal of his live shows is his animated histrionics. An array of LED panels animated behind him and large panels in front illuminated to spell out his name. Later, giant floating balloon letters settled into the crowd that spelled his name. Occasionally, the master showman leapt from his pedestal into the crowd and surfed through the steamy masses. By the time his set ended shortly after midnight, he had presided over Santa Barbara's longest and most intense dance party in recent memory.

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[Published on: 2/16/12]

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