Saturday Night: Porter Robinson at Stereo Live
In doing research to cover this show, I created the Porter Robinson drinking game. It's simple: When you read a CD or live-show review for the guy you take a drink anytime his age is mentioned, anytime someone references the big-name DJs who have cosigned him, or anytime someone uses the word "complextro"; you finish your glass anytime someone uses the phrase "wunderkind" or "OWSLA."
It's not that these types of things aren't important, it's just that they're mentioned every single time anyone puts words to page when talking about the guy.
The obvious questions then are: Can someone who turns 20 in two weeks really rock the crowd like a veteran? Can that same person step out of the shadows of the giants that have endorsed him? Is complextro a real thing or just a word made up to confuse people who don't know any better (like me)?
With those questions in mind, I made my first trip to Stereo Live to see if I could find the answers.
Starting off the night officially was San Francisco's The M Machine, who ended up being a really pleasant surprise. Imagine a three-piece band that skips past the typical drum, bass, and guitar configuration and instead uses an MPC, a synth, and some software to put their songs together. In addition to their own instruments, each member took a turn at the mike for a song.
As for the music itself, it was rooted in electro house but somehow more emotional. Their set started off with some heaviness, but they weren't afraid to let things go quiet or even become majestic. One song in the middle of their set was almost a full-on power ballad, with synths replacing the guitar noodling. It' s not easy to dance to, but a pleasure to take in.
They also dropped in a bit of Radiohead's "Everything In its Right Place," which was an unexpected treat.
Mat Zo isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I respect his ability to control a crowd. He clearly understands what the crowd wants and he gives it to them, with buildups and breakdowns arriving as scheduled. The only major thing you can really fault him on was his stage display, which was minimal and kind of boring.
It was a good set with some small flaws. Sometimes the transitions didn't seem that well thought-out, and at times it felt like the set was just running in place rather than moving on to things that were more interesting. Once he started to mix in some heavier stuff in the second half of his set things really seemed to pick up.
To his credit, he looked like he was having the time of his life up on stage and his enthusiasm was infectious.
And then Porter Robinson took the stage and the crowd immediately lost its collective shit. They had been moving pretty steady during Zo, but the sudden boost of energy was like watching someone get adrenaline shot straight to their heart.