Wolfgang Gartner brings down the house in Northampton

By Gabe Scarbrough

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Wolfgang Gartner delivered a solid DJ set at Pearl Street Ballroom Wednesday night, keeping the energy up and making the crowd forget it was, in fact, a weekday.

Standing atop a giant DJ booth, that was part sculpture and part set piece, Gartner showed his virtuosity with the tools of the disc jockey. Playing almost entirely his own material, Gartner perfectly transitioned from the most obscure unreleased tracks to his biggest bangers, while also finding a little time to drop in an edit or two by other artists. The crowd never stopped moving.

Before Gartner graced the stage, the first opener of the night, Popeska, played to a relatively small crowd. While the fans began trickling in, those who had arrived early were taken by Popeska. Every time the 19-year-old producer dropped one of his dirty dubstep or electro house tracks the audience viscerally reacted. One of the hardest rooms to play to is one with a sparse audience but he seemed to have a tight grasp on what the people wanted to hear and gave it to them, leaving the crowd swaying, lurching and two-stepping in his wake.

As the first signee to Gartner’s newly revived label Kindergarten Records, Popeska’s career seems to be taking off, and if the reaction he got from the room at Pearl Street is any indication, it will not be a slow ascent.

“He’s somebody that I really believe in and believe he’s going to be one of the next big things,” said Gartner in an interview for the Collegian before the show, “and we wanted to bring him on here and give him that exposure.”

As Popeska left the stage, second opener Pierce Fulton continued building the energy of the crowd. Fulton traded Popeska’s growling wobble basses and audio samples from the cult classic film “The Room” for a more straightforward house style. Keeping the audience moving and increasing the energy, Fulton expertly controlled the crowd, despite being the same age as most of the audience at 20 years old.

During these performances, Gartner’s giant stage piece loomed in the background. Despite being covered by a tarp, it was impossible to miss, both for its huge stature and the red LED lights that pierced through the covering.

When Fulton finished his set, the crowd stood anxious and excited as roadies uncovered the LED lit behemoth. Designed by Stephen Lieberman at SJ Lighting, the same company behind much of the staging behind Ultra Music Festival and Electric Daisy Carnival, the piece is a sight to behold. A giant honeycomb shaped mass of diamond plate steel and LED screens showing synced visuals, the colossal DJ booth even featured its own built in floodlights that flashed on and off to the beat.

Most importantly, however, was the fact that Gartner was at the helm of this visual spectacle. His CDJs and mixer allowed him to guide the crowd, now packed to the back wall, through track after track of house music. The audience received a range of tracks from the pounding kick drums of pokies on line buzzy electro bangers yet to be officially released to the still pounding kick drums of his biggest hits.

“Space Junk,” his 2010 smash which took the festival scene by storm, got one of the biggest reactions of the night with the crowd yelling out its famous refrain. Another sing along moment occurred when Gartner played a DJ edit of the Justice song “Civilization,” prompting a flood of voice yelping along “beating of a million drums!”

Perhaps the biggest change of atmosphere came when Gartner transitioned into “Devil’s Den,” his collaboration with Skrillex. While not the first collaboration of the night (Gartner had already played tracks with both Deadmau5 and Tiesto’s hands on them), it was the only track of the set to have any dubstep influence in it. As soon as the drop came at the climax of the song the crowd turned into a lurching mass of bassheads, a jarring but enjoyable transition from the fun-loving joyful ravers they previously appeared to be.

Interestingly, most of Gartner’s collaborations occurred over the Internet.

“With ‘Animal Rights,’ the first one I did with Deadmau5, we got in the studio … and did that one in the studio together in a few days and then everything else I’ve done has been over the Internet,” said Gartner. “Like, even with Skrillex, he was in L.A. and I was in L.A., and we were both at our house at the same time but we decided to just send it over the Internet and do it. I think it somehow works out better that way.”

Gartner also played a decent chunk of songs influenced by hip hop, his favorite music to listen to in his spare time. He listed Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group as a recent mainstay on his playlist.

When asked about his collaboration with Cam’ron and Jim Jones of the Harlem hip hop crew The Diplomats, Gartner stated he believes the track, “Circus Freaks” broke ground in that the rappers did not pander to what is typically believed dance kids want to hear and “kept it real.”

“You listen to it and it’s a song about slangin’ cocaine and f****n’ b******,” said Gartner, “and like nobody’s ever done that on a dance track before.”

Gartner briefly returned to the stage for an encore before leaving to head back to the bus and move onward to the next venue and the next party.

His game plan for the year is to continue to release music, but hold off on producing another album.

“Seeing the release cycle of ‘Weekend in America’ and seeing the frustration from fans over the course of the whole year waiting for that album and not having any new music I decided this year I just want to release singles,” said Gartner, “so there’s just a constant flow of music coming, for the fans basically.”

Gabe Scarbrough can be reached at [email protected]