The house lights are off. Cue the lasers.
They shoot across the crowd of thousands, bouncing in unison with hands raised in the air. Strobes cut their pulsing undulations into snapshots as they move, mesmerized by the morphing patterns on the screen. The DJ dances behind the turntables, occasionally shouting encouraging phrases. The audience’s dancing is relentless.
University of Massachusetts students filled the Mullins Center quickly Friday in anticipation of an electronica concert, headlined by dubstep DJ Rusko. With floor tickets sold out, concertgoers wanted the chance to be as close to the star as possible. Many arrived early, despite the fact that Rusko had tweeted his exact appearance time earlier in the evening.
Local DJ DuNNa appeared as the first of three opening acts. The DJ has appeared at venues like Pearl Street in Northampton and the UMass 2012 Homecoming Tailgate, and held his own in the large arena. His segment of the show lasted the length of the “doors open” time before the event was actually scheduled to begin.
Dsk Chk entered next with a pair of dancers, all three sporting Guy Fawkes masks. Made famous by the dystopian graphic novel and film “V for Vendetta,” the mask represents the overthrow of a tyrannical government and has been featured in some “Occupy” protests during the past few months.
The unsigned musician showed some promise in his beats. He also included remixes of popular songs such as “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida that bolstered the crowd’s cresting energy. His set lasted a full hour.
The crowd erupted when Savoy came on, anticipating that it was nearly Rusko’s turn on the stage. Savoy really got things going, with excellent beats and big drops. The two DJs worked hard with the third band member, a drummer, to create irresistible dance tracks – aided by the presence of more lasers and colorful lights. Their set lasted until after 10:30 p.m., closing out nearly three hours’ worth of opening acts.
At last Rusko appeared. The concertgoers had been listening to similar sounding mixes of electro and dubstep for quite some time now, and the transition into the headliner at first appeared no different.
But moments later, Rusko pulled out all the stops. With wacky sounds and bass lines that could be felt through the floor, it was obvious the main act had appeared. Concertgoers became immersed in their dance moves, flailing their body parts this way and that – the dance moves became lower, raunchier and wilder.
Rusko not only stimulated the audience with his crazy DJ-ing, but also demonstrated a clear passion for his work. He bounced around like the rest of the crowd, still managing to keep his hands on the turntables and not missing a beat. He pumped his fist and even lip-synched along with his tracks.
The UMass EDMC yeti and human bananas – seen at Mahar Auditorium earlier in the week promoting the show – danced their way through the crowd.
Whenever things began to get a little repetitive – or perhaps when the crowd felt the soreness of their appendages – Rusko would throw in a heavy drop. His drops involved an increasing percussion tempo, followed by a short pause for anticipation and then a sub bass to create a “drop.” He also added strange non-musical tones that impressed the audience.
Concertgoers donned their finest neon-colored outfits, often accessorized with armfuls of bright bracelets or furry boot covers, to which the complete rave feel of the event could be attributed.
Rusko’s stage had six projector screens often used to spell out his name with an exclamation point, and one large screen beneath his booth. The projections often included patterns of morphing colorful images and the entire area was aglow solely in neon lights.
Most of the music came from original tracks, but Rusko also displayed his variability with his integration of the song “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, as well as “Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan.
As the night came to a close, the DJ thanked the audience, his endearing Cockney accent coming through. He played one of his biggest hits, “Hold On,” and then exclaimed that his next song – a remix of “Lights” by Ellie Goulding – would be his last.
But with encouragement from the crowd, he extended his set even beyond this song. After the show, Rusko tweeted “I expected crazy but Jeeeeeeezzzzzzz uMass gets down hard!”
And that they did.
Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at email@example.com.