The commodification of rave culture reached a new high in Chicago
this past Saturday night (April 26) as both the Orb and The Chemical Brothers
stormed the Aragon Ballroom for a bombastic evening of wildly altered beats.
Sponsored by Q101, a local radio station whose identity has been
synonymous with "alternative rock," the vast crowd that filled the old,
cavernous hall was comprised of legions of disaffected youth looking for kicks
and a reason to care about this thing they call electronica. While it took some
time for everybody to loosen up and finally light their spliffs, there was no
doubt from the looks on their faces that a huge number of folks were doing some
serious (should I say recreational?) drugs. Yes, love was definitely in the air
as throngs of ecstasy-riddled comrades clung to each other, bouncing to the
music and feeling the initial vibe.
The new British Invasion started
promptly at nine o'clock with Dr. Alex Patterson of the Orb appearing at the
center of his high-tech pyramid, spinning his wares with focused abandon. Armed
with several large video screens and an impressive array of lights, Patterson
began to chugging through a random sampling of his vast catalogue of DJ faves.
Drawing heavily from his excellent new CD, Orblivion, Alex Patterson
displayed a shrewd sense of dancefloor dynamics. The king of ambient mixology,
Patterson DJ'd for almost two hours. Pacing the crowd with long interludes of
domestic chill-out before roaring back with his personal brand of
post-techno/pre-drum & bass antics, Patterson showed exactly why he has been
a favorite of the plugged-in cognoscenti since the late '80s. The Orb have
always been clear on their role as aural ambassadors of the new psychedelia and
their trippy sound-excursions gave the crowd ample opportunity to get on the
As well as the Orb performed, this particular evening clearly
belonged to the Chemical Brothers...
As well as the Orb performed, this particular evening
clearly belonged to the Chemical Brothers. After an intermission of
Chicago-style House music which had spawned the whole electronic dance music
thing to begin with, the ChemBros hit the stage to a rousing reception from
their newly adoring fans.
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons seem to be exactly the
chemicrazy rock stars they claim not to be, blasting the audience with their
hard-core, techno-cum-alternative-rock and electronic roll. Enthusiastically
catering to the nearly all white crowd, Rowlands and Simons pushed the energy
level over the top and shook the entire building with a relentless array of
mind-bending rhythms. Playing almost all of the Dig Your Own Hole CD as
well as selected tracks from last year's Loops Of Fury and 1995's
Exit Planet Dust, the Chemical Brothers had the audience kept the
audience smiling for the duration of their set.
With precision strobe
lights flashing in time to the adrenaline fueled fervor, this was exactly the
entertainment that the masses had been craving. It was a truly amazing sight,
two young DJs pushing the limits of techno and melding an alternative rock
aesthetic into a dynamic live performance that had thousands of kids jumping
and jiving like it was fucking Nirvana or something.
It was all too much
for this old man. As my friend and I limped out of the Aragon at one in the
morning, The Chemical Brothers were still giving it everything they had and
showed no signs of slowing down. If there was any question in my mind before
this show, there is no doubt any longer. Electronica is DEFINITELY catching on,
and the Chemical Brothers will soon own the hearts and minds of tomorrow's disc
buying public. If Caroline Records has any stock on the open market, I'd say
now is the time to buy.