What happens when you put DJ Snake in the State University that’s the definitive center of the United States of EDM? You get a concert that everyone scrambles to get tickets for and ends up being a place where twerking is virulent and musical madness is the only emotion in the air. Pure insanity is how I’d describe it, actually.
Initial reactions to DJ Snake showing up at Rutgers were less than positive. Common reactions were about how he wasn’t nearly as “big” as Alesso in 2013 and how “nobody knew who he was.” Well, all I had to say about that is that there is nobody more perfect for Ratchet Rutgers itself than DJ Snake’s romp-shaking trap beats and animalistic synths. In any case, his alleged B-level status changed for good when he was featured on the main stage of Ultra 2014.
For those unfamiliar with the genre of Trap, it is not too difficult to get acquainted to the genre given its roots in hip-hop. If you’ve heard any song by T.I., Ester Dean, or Lil Wayne, you’re in the know. Now take those types of beats and add a flavor of EDM – catchy synths, sometimes a vocal hook, and an 808 drum. This is trap. Heavy bass hits incorporated into a catchy rhythm set between 96 and 108 BPM.
The show itself was run by a Boston-based entertainment company, GrooveBoston. Upon given access to the venue prior to anxious concertgoers, I was shown around the stage and given an overview of the technical setup. Motorized LED par cans, lasers, heavy-hitting strobes, intelligent lights, 4 LED screens, and lasers flooded the RAC to my chagrin, and I wouldn’t have expected anything less. 4 DJ decks were set up to pump sound into a system was equally impressive. 30,000 watts were on hand accompanied by subs that could probably set off an earthquake.
The show started with DJ Atar, then well known Rutgers local, DJ Akhil. After that was a brief period of crowd-hyping music by GrooveBoston resident MaxBaun and at last, the venomous Serpent himself at 9:30 PM. The opening DJs were the usual fare, sticking to generic beats and some electro-house hits from past years. Akhil gets some props for playing some remixes or alternate versions of well-known hits. One that stood out was a version of Axwell’s ‘In My Mind’ with a different drop. This pleased younger listeners while maintaining the interest of even well-acquainted EDM listeners. Given their “opening” status, they all definitely produced a solid product for a really hyped up concert.
One Snake himself was on, the rest was history. Not only was the set a killer, but the order in which the familiar tracks were staggered could not have been any better. The highly anticipated ‘Turn Down For What’ was dropped somewhere in the middle of the set but not for long. For the time it was played though, just about everyone in the audience was shouting the notorious four-word chant louder than fourth-quarter football fans during the 2006 Rutgers-Louisville game. He played Bird Machine, another hit, towards the latter half and used a slightly different intro. Additionally, “trappy” hip-songs like ‘Bugatti’ and ‘Ain’t Worried About Nothin’ caught on well with the audience. A few 2014 hits like Dillon Francis’ ‘Get Low’ brought out the best in everyone attending. To put it simply: DJ Snake’s energy was more contagious than anything imaginable.
With certain exceptions, nearly no concert goes without a few downfalls or hiccups. As expected, the floor of the RAC wasn’t exactly used at full capacity probably because of decisions made by an overly-cautious public safety department. The bigger issue, however, was GrooveBoston essentially demoting DJ Snake, the headliner, to below their own guys. Were the lasers firing for DJ Snake? No. Was the sound at full volume for DJ Snake? No. Were all the lights going berserk? Nope. This would’ve been perfectly okay if their main show was something mind-blowingly good, but this was not the case, unless of course you consider bumping Ke$ha’s ‘Timber’ or (insert top-40 song remix here) top-notch concert material. I would compare their part of the show to listening to the DJ at Huey’s Knight Club on a Saturday night. To some, I would think it would seem downright disrespectful highlighting your C-level DJs over an Ultra Headliner, and I’m not referring to the timing because DJ Snake had to leave to attend Pacha later that night. But it’s bad not giving him the the full light and sound treatment.
Grievances aside, there is not a doubt that DJ Snake played an insanely awesome set. I also think the Rutgers University Programming Association could not have picked anyone more appropriate for the Spring concert given the culture of The Big R. Kudos to them for pulling off such a great event.
So what are you going to answer when someone asks, “What are you turnin down for?”
A special shoutout goes to Chris Dutton from GrooveBoston for letting us go around taking these awesome pictures.
An even more special thank you to Matthew DiFabio for taking almost all of these photographs!