By Joel Adams
I’ve been a fan of Cut Chemist since a friend gave me a copy of his album The Audience is Listening in 2006, so when Synapse Presents announced that the world-renowned DJ was coming up to play a First Tap, I jumped at the chance to see the show. Before the date rolled around I watched a few videos of Cut Chemist’s other performances, which pretty much all featured a video projected on the screen in time with the music, and it seemed a little gimmicky. Of course, seeing performances in person is always a whole different story so I still had hope.
I arrived at the show and the opener, DJ Victamone, was already hard at work. I took the opportunity to kind of get my camera set up and ready to go, and snag myself a couple beers, but then the Illaskan Assassins dance crew started up and became the center of attention for the rest of the set. I’ve been to quite a few First Taps and this was one of those rare occasions where the opener actually drew a pretty good chunk of the crowd out of the lobby (and away from the beer) and into the theater itself. In the midst of all the dancing and music, local rapper A-dam came out on stage and spat some pretty decent rhymes over it all. I was already engaged in the whole experience and the main act hadn’t even come out yet.
As soon as Cut Chemist took the stage I knew something awesome was about to go down. He was surrounded by turntables, mixers, samplers, and all kinds of gadgets and gizmos I didn’t recognize. As soon as he started spinning I was blown away. I often wonder what a DJ is doing when they’re just playing from a playlist, but Cut was taking it to a whole other level. From what I could see he was running two to four turntables at any given time, and somehow synchronizing it all with the visuals up on the screen above him.
By the end of his first set I had pretty much given up trying to understand how Cut was mixing everything in real time and started to really get into the visuals being projected on the screen above his head. There were clips mashed together from as far back as what seemed to be the invention of film itself, everything from grainy black and white split second clips of school children screaming with excitement, to bizarre ‘60s that were cartoons clearly inspired by someone’s bad acid trip.
When Chali 2na took the stage the whole experience felt complete. Cut Chemist kept spinning and the visuals continued, but now there were actual lyrics over it all. Chali also brought a lot of personality to the equation; just from the fact that he smiled for the vast majority of the time he was on stage you could tell he was having a blast. Seeing that the performers are having fun has an amazing effect on the crowd and the whole feel of the event, and Chali’s grin was infectious.
This really was one of my favorite First Tap shows of all time. Everything from the opener to Chali 2na’s performance just seemed to fit together and held my attention for the whole show. After the show I actually got the chance to meet Chali 2na and Cut Chemist and they both seemed interested in playing another show up here in the frozen north, so if you didn’t catch them this time, I highly recommend keeping an eye out for their next show.