Steve Aoki: Brixton Academy, London

EDM’s poster boy indulges in bone-headed gimmicks that range from hurling cakes at the front row to crowd-surfing in a rubber boat.

The dance music world is plagued by a second wave of superstar DJs and producers and Steve Aoki (below) is firmly in the vanguard. A cast-iron draw in the US, last year this indefatigable figure played close to 250 arena shows that netted him in excess of £15m.

Aoki has achieved this rarefied status by becoming a poster boy for EDM, the subtlety-free strain of blitzkrieg techno marked by colon-rearranging bass and shrill, brutally effective stabs of rave synths. Pitched at a level of relentless faux-delirium, this post-midnight show doesn’t so much seduce its audience as bludgeon it into submission.

Aoki’s brittle, cartoon trance is the club-music equivalent of a Michael Bay Hollywood blockbuster, all lowest-common-denominator action sequences and controlled explosions. And if you ever wondered what ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ would sound like with thumping house beats ladled over them, Aoki is your man.

Aoki’s kindred spirit Deadmau5 recently admitted that he does little at his live shows except to press play, and while Aoki sporadically twiddles a few knobs, he certainly has plenty of time to indulge his voluminous repertoire of bone-headed gimmicks. These progress from striking a crucifixion pose atop the DJ deck to hurling cake into the willing faces of the front row to bouncing across the crowd’s heads in a rubber dinghy.

Like any irredeemably superficial artist, Aoki craves gravitas and credibility, and has earnestly vowed that his next studio album will be a more profound, deep-house affair. At 2am, watching him crowd-surf topless across a cake-bespattered moshpit, it is somehow difficult to believe.

© Ian GittinsThe Guardian, 10 February 2015

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