RJD2 walked onto stage as the latest creation in dj’ing. Wearing a black jumpsuit with bright sequins, a welding mask, and an MPC player over his crotch—the man was part human and robotic dj thrust-pumping machine. RJD2 was ready to perform, as he teased the crowd saying through a vocoder, “You seem like bright people, and can see that I have made modifications to my cock and balls area.” With the slightest touch of his finger to his pad, his MPC, or crotch, he controlled the dance floor—a feat any man wishes he could do.
While touring his last album, Since We Last Spoke, RJD2 surprised fans by moving away from turntables in favor of live instrumentation. Like any surprise, some fans embraced this move while others questioned it. The move reflected a growing trend in electronic music, emphasizing more of a live a performance—after subjected to criticism for being “just a guy on a laptop.” In today’s digital era musicians must sell show tickets. The ease at which (click!) someone can download an entire album has put extreme pressure on musicians to perform, and perform well.
After thrust-pumping the crowd into excitement, RJD2, born Rambler John, removed his mask, and stepped behind the instrument that made him famous: the ones-n-twos (turntables). These days it feels like only turntablists or club djs (with the exception of Girl Talk) continue to use turntables for performances, but RJD2 appeared unfazed as though he’d never read these criticisms.
Jumping right into his new album Colossus, the performance ran the gamete of his ten years of work from “Iced Lightning” to “The Horror,” to remixes using the Mad Men soundtrack. It was a dazzling showmanship. He never scratched too much, or shortened his tracks to indiscernible snippets. The crowd swayed back and forth as RJD2 moved seamlessly between songs building excitement.
Then half way through his set, RJD2 put his turntables aside picking up a bass guitar instead. Three other musicians joined him on stage, and all of sudden the dj once so secure behind the ones-n-two, became a side-note within a band. Worse, the band felt like a cover band of RJD2 songs. The intricate mastering that make his songs so intangibly unique, were muffled within the jamming.
It’s not that RJD2 isn’t a good bassist, he’s a great producer. At the night’s beginning he had the dance floor at the touch of his crotch, then he gave it away–now that’s puzzling to any man, or fan.