EDM. Fu manchu. Cake. You already know who i'm talking about: Steve Aoki. His Aokify America tour swaggered into The Shrine auditorium on Saturday (Nov. 15) with an impressive array of genre-bending acts in tow, featuring high-energy hip-hop hotstepper Waka Flocka and surprise guests including Kid Cudi and Blink-182's Travis Barker. The diversity of the lineup brought together everyone from full on kandi-masked ravers to frat kids to weekend warriors, all converging in the name of neon-tinged revelry. The show was sold out well in advance, with ticket prices on Stubhub edging over double the original price.
Even early in the night, The Shrine was packed to the rafters with fresh faced youths partying away their tuition loans. We'll posit that most attendees knew nothing of the theater's illustrious history and barely took notice of the grandiose ambiance amongst all the rattling bass and shrouds of smoke. Dim Mak new boys Keys n' Krates opened up the show. They're a trio that performs slick, pad heavy hip-hop instrumentals with, live drums, souped up bass and a post-trap sensibility. Mixing EDM vibes with live instrumentation is tough gig but these guys pull it off. Also, they look like total music nerds, which is always appreciated in an act.
Afterwards, Waka Flocka's DJ ran through some recent hip-hop radio bangers, warming up the crowd and the speakers before a mini-me little person version of Waka Flocka emerged bizarrely on stage in circus-like fashion. He teased the crowd into a confused frenzy until the real Waka tore on stage amidst bass-blown gunshots and rapid fire rhymes. There were a lot of gunshots throughout his set. Mr. Flocka is the pretty face of radio trap and his high energy performance, replete with perpetually flailing dreadlocks, kept the crowd on their toes.
It was barely 10:30 p.m. by this point but already much of the crowd was wide-eyed and lipsmacking. The lobby was full of supine ne'er-do-wells and the line for the water fountain was serpentine. This was not your daddy's Academy Award crowd. The smoking patio was populated by kids sporting perma-grins taking pictures with strangers, teaching each other the Melbourne shuffle and doling out hugs as if they were going out of style like Trap music is about to.
Brostep boy genius Alvin Risk rallied the crowd halfway through the bill. Skrillex's sweater-clad bestie showed off some versatility by throwing hardstyle and big room house into a rowdy selection of EDM party jams. It got damn near rave-like at times and props to the guy for switching it up. That said, you can't deny that his cache of aesthetics seems like he cheekily downloaded all of Skrillex's plugins and presets circa 2011 and has just refused to admit it. Risk's was the most uptempo and raucous set of the night, though, and it left the crowd about to boil over by the time the main man himself made his way.
Steve Aoki arrived on stage amidst a deluge of confetti and dropped one electro-house tear-out after another. His onstage energy is undeniable. He was dancing harder than anybody in the crowd. Early on, he debuted a new collaboration with Afrojack, during which his stage setup literally morphed into two giant humanoid dancing robots shooting smoke out of their arms. Suffice to say, everybody lost their marbles.
Then it was time for the obligatory caking. Aoki grabbed multiple Costco-sized sheet cakes from a diligent assistant and chucked them headlong into a heaving crowd baying for that sweet confectionary release. There may or may not be ejaculatory allegories to this whole ritual, but nobody had time to think too hard about that as Travis Barker took to the drums in time to receive a rousing rendition of 'Happy Birthday' before Kid Cudi appeared on stage to lead the crowd through a singalong of his "Pursuit of Happiness." By the time Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park showed up, notions of any genre boundaries remaining were summarily dismissed as the show had (d)evolved into an epic rager hours earlier.
Therein lies the beauty of what The Aokify Tour has managed to prove: If it is loud, boisterous and high-energy, the party will rage and Steve Aoki will most likely be at the center of it, raking in the cash while pumping his fists. Aoki is the consummate modern businessman-as-artist. He's been clever enough to realize that genre definition is a dead scene and is changing the cultural landscape and branding himself in the process. Hip-hop, EDM, rock and pop all shared center stage in an unanticipated celebration of coexistence, rage, and cake. And though every sip may have not been your cup of tea, even the most frigid of music snobs would have found a toe a-tappin' at some point in the night.
Quotes of the night:
Girl A: "Where's Emily?"
Girl B: "Oh she's in the bathroom throwing up."
Girl A: "Oh okay"
"Dude, did you hear about those hot 16-year-old chicks over there?"
"Dude, I'm here for Linkin Park, bro. They're like my childhood band... The only time I've left the US is to go to Afghanistan."
See a gallery of The Aokify Tour here.