Donald Glaude with Jelo and Evil P at System Soundbar (117 Peter), Saturday (August 9). $20 before midnight, $25 after. www.systemsoundbar.com Rating: NNNNN
Generally speaking, if you call big-name DJs entertainers they take offence, since many see what they do as being more artistic than simply whipping a crowd into ecstasy by playing other people's records. Seattle's Donald Glaude, however, is best known for his showmanship. He's the kind of DJ who makes people say, "You really have to see him live to understand." Mixing hard banging house like it's hiphop, he cuts and scratches his way through high-energy sets during which he regularly gets on the mike. He interacts with the crowd, leaves the booth to dance and does everything he can to get people excited.
This particular Toronto appearance at System Soundbar Saturday is to promote his second mix CD for Moonshine, recorded at Turnmills in London, England. It's rare for commercial mix CDs to actually be mixed live, let alone mixed live in a club, but Glaude is the kind of DJ who needs to feed off the energy of an excited crowd and is confident enough in his turntable skills to just let the tape roll.
While he's highly regarded by other DJs for the technical ability he's honed over the past 15 years, there's a consensus among many partiers that skill isn't enough any more. In an effort to make dance culture more marketable, DJs have been sold to the public as the new guitar gods. Unfortunately, most of them aren't very good showmen, and the mystique of mixing records has faded for many on the dance floor.
Glaude overcomes that jaded attitude through sheer over-the-top enthusiasm. When he's bouncing around like a man possessed, it's hard not to get caught up in his excitement even if you couldn't care less how long that last mix lasted.
Dance music is in transition. On the one hand, there are still some big clubs that continue to pursue the post-rave aesthetic of hard and fast beats and DJ gods. On the other, many smaller nights are starting up where the DJ isn't even named on the flyers, the songs are rarely mixed and the focus is directed back at the party and the scene itself.
Which will emerge as the dominant approach remains to be seen, but if you want to hear a DJ who needs to be experienced to be appreciated, Donald Glaude is guaranteed to rock the house Saturday as few others can.