If there was any doubt that DJ duo Sasha and John Digweed are the reigning ambassadors of the trance scene in America, it was erased when the pair's in-store concert drew an excited but peaceful crowd at the Virgin Megastore in New York City's Union Square on Thursday night.
In front of a crowd of roughly 500 according to a Virgin representative spread out on the basement floor and pressed up against the ground-floor railing overlooking it, Sasha (born Alexander Coe) and Digweed spun tunes by artists ranging from Underworld to A Guy Called Gerald in their hour-long set. A few technical glitches caused the sound to be muffled intermittently throughout the performance, but they did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, many of whom waited patiently in line for an hour or more to meet the band in a post-performance autograph session.
Sasha and Digweed's latest mix-CD, Communicate, released June 20, entered the Billboard 200 albums chart at #149 this week, fueled by sales of more than 9,000 in its first week both notable accomplishments for artists in a genre largely ignored by mainstream radio and MTV. The mix's two discs include 22 tracks ranging from a recent Chemical Brothers B-side, "Enjoyed" (RealAudio excerpt), and a Deep Dish remix of Sven Vath's "Barbarella" (RealAudio excerpt) to new songs by trance producer Jimmy Van M and Digweed himself, under his alias Bedrock. By the end of the in-store event, Communicate notched about 400 more units to its sales total.
A combination of word of mouth, the pair's monthly DJ residency at top New York dance club Twilo and the well-received recent club film "Groove," in which Digweed appears, may account for the massive number of fans showing up at performances on their current North American tour. Eight thousand people came to a show in Atlanta and 4,000 came to one in Memphis, Tenn., according to Sasha.
Despite their steadily increasing popularity over the past two years, the DJs aren't entirely thrilled. The Virgin in-store, for which the duo said they were expecting only a couple of hundred fans, felt overwhelming, Sasha admitted. "Usually, we play and it's dark and we can hide. We're not used to playing in the middle of the day, in front of people. And then the sound blew out. I'm not sure we would want to do this again.
"Of course, we want recognition because we've worked so hard for so long, but the popularity, the whole star-worshipping, is puzzling," he added. Asked if they'd be comfortable if MTV were playing their videos, the duo returned an emphatic "No!"
Tell that to the fans. After the concert, dozens of young people milled about in front of the store, smoking cigarettes, examining their newly signed CDs and turning the sidewalk into a tailgatelike scene.
Vincent Scerbo, 19, who traveled from Roxbury, N.J., to see the set, sported a "Global Underground" T-shirt (both DJs have released mixes in the popular series) and was flushed and grinning after meeting the duo.
"They are the most talented DJs out there; they have the best mixing skills," Scerbo said. Having seen the pair play 13 times, Scerbo called the duo's music "addictive."
"If you see them play live once, you have to go see them again," he said.