Friday night's System Soundbar guests, Hybrid , proved the limitations of their genre and demonstrated why open-format, genre-less DJing is getting so much attention these days. Hybrid is one of the biggest duos in the progressive breaks scene, but they've also been making waves outside that style with some of their more electro-influenced productions.
We arrived to find a much sparser crowd than usual, probably because of competition from the breaks night at Boa . Most of the crowd was on the dance floor, but the energy just wasn't there. You could blame the half-empty club, but judging by the better vibe in the back room, the lacklustre feeling had just as much to do with the tunes Hybrid were playing - lots of chugging synth lines and atmospherics, but few hooks and little dynamics.
To be fair, the genre has its own built-in restrictions: it combines progressive's reserved approach to trance with the pummelling electronic breakbeats of nu-school breaks (think Chemical Brothers with more techno and trance). Stripping away the giddy rave-funk of the funky breaks scene gives this style some more respectability but in this case doesn't leave enough fun to make it work for anything but a packed big room.
The mixing was well executed, and there were definitely some interesting sounds in many of the selections, but Hybrid couldn't get beyond their chosen genre's limitations..
Little Louie Vega has been playing some weird gigs in Toronto. A few months ago he was flown in to DJ the opening of the Yonge Street H+M store, a puzzling gig for a DJ of his stature. Last Thursday, the soulful house icon was the special guest at Ultra , a venue better known as a restaurant and several times smaller than anywhere he'd normally play here. As might be expected, the place was rammed to the point of discomfort. As we entered, several deep house scenesters who couldn't deal with the claustrophobic environment were on their way out. You kind of have to wonder how owner Charles Khabouth manages to get away with stretching capacity regulations so often - his better-known dance club, the Guvernment, is notorious for operating over capacity but never seems to get slammed with the liquor licence suspensions other places do.
To make room for the extra bodies, most of the tables and chairs were moved, and it wasn't actually that hard to find a spot to dance, considering the crowded conditions throughout the venue.
Vega kept people moving and smiling despite staying away from many of the huge anthems he's helped produce as Masters at Work . He even dropped a bunch of electro toward the end of the night, which went over well. It was hardly the cream of the current crop, but the fact that electro was effective is a sign that the deep house scene might be ready to emerge from the conservative state of mind that's been plaguing it for some time.
Frustration at Cache
Stopped by Cache on Friday for a last-minute Layers event. Was surprised to get stopped by a bouncer as I attempted to talk to the DJs. Apparently, the whole upper floor (where the DJ booth is located) is now a VIP section, admission to which is determined by whether you have enough money for bottle service. The poor Layers DJs were getting frustrated by barely being able to see the audience and by the absence of monitors. Not much dancing going on, but lots of standing around and smoking - Cache requires you to arrange for guestlist, which theoretically allows them to call it a private event.