Any person who knows of James Zabiela also knows that he is a technical wizard. Born in the UK and now owner of his own music label, Born Electric, James Zabiela has been killing the decks and innovating the game for years. To say it mildly, I was beyond excited to finally witness him in action.
My night started at Moskito+ Bite, a relatively new spot that opened up on College Street. Never having been before, I walked into Bite (the restaurant portion) and was confused not only by the booths, but the stack of hipster patrons within them. Clearly looking out of place, I was waved over to the back of the restaurant to check my name on the guestlist. After a quick coat check, I made my way up to the third floor and BOOM. I was hit with the most clean and bass heavy sound system I have ever heard. I was told previously about the Dynacord speaker system at Moskito, but experiencing it in person actually made me stagger. After a couple seconds of recuperating, I walked through the doors and looked around. The place was quite empty for 11:30 on a Saturday night, but the music was pumping and the venue was a mix between an upscale lounge and an underground club, something that felt extremely comfortable. So, I grabbed a beer, and started dancing.
Brent Hayward was on the decks throwing down dark tech house that had the people in the club grooving. The highlight for me was when he led up the crowd and suddenly dropped Scuba – Hardbody. The deep dark tune crushed the dance floor and had everyone pumped for the next act. Following Brent was Dj Addy, a Toronto staple in the underground. He manages to mix many different styles of techno and tech house while incorporating samples of international music and sounds, allowing his intricate set to include tracks such as Black by Chris Venola and The Pain by Sebrok. Addy had the floor pumped up to see Zabiela; even his mother, a member of the audience, was dancing hard, if not harder than most!
It was now 1:00, the club was packed with a contrast of mature individuals and Swedish House Mafia spill over. Despite the squishiness, I was ready to experience Zabiela in the best way possible. I pushed up to the front center and planted myself there for the night. I received what I expected and more from Zabiela’s set. He was able to create music beyond what my mind could fathom, mixing sounds on the spot with Ableton on his two iPads, various pads with populated sounds and a mix of tracks that were integrated seamlessly. I was overwhelmed with his ability to keep a deep dirty bass line throughout his set to move to, while balancing it with high vocals and synths to keep it light and airy. His ability to choose the right tracks at the right time was immaculate (for a partial tracklist check below).
The other major area, beyond his amazing turntable skills was his interaction with the audience. Not only did he fully interact with his fans, but he danced just as hard as them. For the entire 2 hour set, his blonde locks bounced, his feet shuffled, his head bobbed and he wore a smile from one ear to the other. Even when he received cheers (as he did more times than I can count in the night) I was positive a blush of modesty and pride crossed his cheeks. Something that made the audience, especially myself, become enamored.
He ended off the night with a solid drum and bass and breaks set for a solid 20 minutes, even including a sample of Good Vibrations by Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch. Then he did something that surprised up all. He detached one of the iPad from his station and walked into the crowd allowing individuals to interact, take pictures and play with the pads to create a, I’ll be it horrible, but meaningful mix. But the fact that he was willing and open to connect and dance with the crowd was more an audience could ask for.
At 3:30, at the end of his set, I was in euphoria. I had to leave and digest what I just witnessed. Grabbing street meat and hailing a cab, I lay in bed for hours running through the night in my head. If you ever have the chance to catch this legend live, please do, and thank me later.
My Nu Leng – The Grid
Djack – Nuorica
The Giver – Duke Dumont (Locked Groove Remix)
Miniminds & Spektre – Laskback
2000 and One – Good Busy
Alden Tyrell ft. Mike Dunn – Touch The Sky
James Zabiela – Healing (Sasha Remix)
Spectrasoul – The Curb
Foals – My Number (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs Remix)
Sanj Takhar – EDM TOR