In the immortal words of Fergie, genres are so 2000-and-late. Since the early millennium, many of the lines traditionally drawn around distinct music styles have all but disappeared. Blame Gregg “Girl Talk” Gillis for making it mainstream to throw 400 songs together in an hour-long mix, or point fingers at the technology that allows a kid in the suburbs of Kentucky to hear music from Brazil, the Bronx, Bangladesh, and Berlin with only a few clicks; regardless, it's a done deal. Music fandom can still feel territorial — just ask a Directioner — but for many, the tasting menu that is contemporary music makes it pointless or outdated to hold on to any one identity too firmly. That's the idea at the core of the downtown L.A.–based electronic producer Mija's FK A Genre tour, which made a stop in New York City this past Saturday.
Mija curated the tour's roster as a way of putting her genreless philosophy into action on the dancefloor. At Webster Hall, that meant a lineup that included herself; the contemplative, romantic, Compton-raised rapper Boogie; former Australian radio host Nina Las Vegas; and special guest Justin Martin, a house producer from San Francisco. Boogie took the stage around midnight for a set that, in principle, should have made for a nice way to bridge rap and EDM, two sounds that are in constant musical conversation. On record, he's an adept rapper, strong on both technical and emotional levels. Yet in execution, Boogie seemed out of his element, and he struggled to win over the crowd. As he performed songs from this month's Thirst 48 Pt. 2, a follow-up to his 2014 breakthrough mixtape Thirst 48, the audience appeared to tune out, conversing in small groups rather than keeping their attention on the stage. Even if his DJ did a mean Milly Rock and dab, it was only with his closer, "Oh My," that the audience matched Boogie's intensity.
Up next was Nina Las Vegas, who came out to dimmed lights and a contortionist duo, who twisted around a hollow cube in the venue's center that rose to the ceiling. As the Australian producer and label owner took the stage at 1 a.m., it felt like the night was really starting. Where her recent original work is more upbeat, much of her live set was dedicated to loud, percussive house. That was leveled out by a sprinkling of rap remixes, including a Jersey club version of Drake’s “Controlla”; later, Nina puled apart Kanye West's “Fade” to highlight the song’s sample of “Mysteries of Love” by Fingers Inc. By featuring that classic 1980s Chicago house track, she gave her set a sense of musical history, narrowing the gap between styles even with decades of distance. Instead of erasing the lines between genres, Nina was highlighting and embracing the connections between them.
Mija took a different tack in her headlining set, never settling into one style for more than two minutes. This approach — always keeping her audience on their toes, constantly guessing what might be next — is one Mija relishes when she DJs. On Saturday, she did not perform a straight techno set like she did this summer at the Detroit Movement Festival, but instead let off a rapid-fire burst of various styles. PC Music's high-pitched bubblegum pop, Vic Mensa’s Skrillex-produced “U Mad,” and Dutch producer San Holo’s uncharacteristically mellow edit of Clams Casino’s “I’m God” all showed up within the first half hour. As the night went on, Mija pulled out happy hardcore, a bit of metal, her own excellent single “Better,” and even an exaggeratedly chipper version of DJ Snake’s hit “Middle.”
A decade ago, there was a novelty in seeing how a mash-up DJ could sync together tons of pop songs, but now that kind of multitasked listening has become an everyday fact of life for music fans. This new normal allows for more creativity and freedom; Mija’s performance threw a dozen or more genres into a blender, and the audience tasked with keeping up was ready.