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QUESTLOVE at Tattoo, Thursday, April 17. Rating: NNN
It's always a little strange at DJ shows, when everyone in the venue gawks at the booth, as if something crazy could happend at any minute.
It's less strange when that DJ is as revered as Roots drummer/co-frontman Questlove. You just want to be in the man's presence. One of the most respected musicians alive, the journalist, producer and disc jockey drew in a capacity crowd at Tattoo, leaving many disappointed fans outside.
Entering the booth just after midnight, as part of Hennessy Artistry's series of big-name turntablist shows (they brought DJ Premier recently as well), Quest launched into a three-hour set that started out with cuts of recognizable, reliable classics like Chaka Demus & Pliers' Murder She Wrote, Usher's Yeah! and Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight. The crowd was particularly responsive when he mixed in De La Soul's Me, Myself And I.
Eventually, Quest removed his blazer, revealing a "DAMN GINA" tee, and started throwing in some older oddities and underground b-sides. Apparently, though, he wasn't happy with the level of crowd participation for these lesser-known gems.
Saying he's been coming to Toronto for twenty years and beseeching the crowd for more movement, Quest was obviously not impressed, essentially asking us if we just wanted to hear mainstream hits all night.
It does make you feel kind of self-conscious when one of your musical idols insinuates that your tastes aren't refined enough. And the way that crowd was packed, it's not like there was much room to dance anyway. Plus, you don't become the house band for a late night television show and not expect to acquire some more mainstream fans.
But awkward interlude aside, Quest proved to be the genius we all crammed into Tattoo for. His mixes were unquestionably fresh, spanning multiple decades, and plumbing depths of musical knowledge few people will ever be able to access. And whether the crowd responded appropriately or not, few of us will see a master of his calibre at work again.