This past Thursday night I head to my favorite venue for a show repping my favorite label – Kill Frenzy & Claude VonStroke at Output for a mini Dirtybird party. I had been looking forward to this show for months and made arrangements to attend literally within the first hour it was announced.
I couldn’t sleep for days before, constantly feeling like a little girl the night before Christmas. By the time the show finally arrived, I was physically giddy with excitement. My friend and I walked in just as Kill Frenzy approached the decks and began his mind-altering set. Mixing in his more sexual tracks like “XXX” with bigger House-ier tunes, Kill Frenzy took a strong hold of the crowd from the get go. Soon after he mixed in what is arguably his biggest track, “No Panties”, much to the pleasure of the crowd, who gyrated and sang along, getting wet with sweat and some other fluids you can imagine early on in the night.
Each song of the set progressed the vibe in a new and welcomed direction. Kill Frenzy acted as our guide across the tech-house spectrum, providing us with different tastes like a flight of wine. He played more songs off his debut album like “Alarms”, the crowd-favorite “All Night Long” and “So Fine” to close out the set. Now my expectations for Kill Frenzy were almost unrealistically high, yet he managed to break them. I stopped for a moment, unsure how Claude was going to be able to top this set.
I have to preface what I’m about to say here. I go to a lot of shows. It’s literally my job. Not trying to sound obnoxious, I’m just providing some context. Let’s say I’ve been to 100 shows & festivals. Let’s say at a regular show there’s an average of four sets. That means I’ve seen around 400 sets. Then factor in that at festivals you see a lot more sets. Let’s round it to 100 extra sets (it’s probably more). That means I’ve seen over 500 sets in my life.
I provide all this context to emphasize the gravity of what I’m about to say.
Claude Von Stroke’s set at Output in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on February 12th, 2015 was the best set I’ve attended in my entire life.
Now let me elaborate and contextualize a little bit more. I love Dirtybird. I’m like unhealthily obsessed. It’s almost concerning at this point. So to have a set come from the label’s Godfather already pushed this set above others for me. Also, Output is probably my favorite venue in the entire world. Powered by a Funktion-One sound system, a no-photos policy, and a consistently incredible crowd, this venue also propelled the set forward. I also attended with my best friend and favorite concert partner, so that didn’t hurt either. All of these factors combined with the beauty and precision of Kill Frenzy’s opening set and the jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, body-numbing set Claude delivered that night made this my Ratatouille set.
Ratatouille set? What the fuck is that do you ask? In the Pixar movie “Ratatouille”, Anton Ego, a bitter critic end the film in an incredibly touching and heartwarming scene where he speaks about the role of the critic, stating:
“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”
Across my nearly two years of critiquing music I constantly think of this scene. Do I think I’m a proliferous critic whose words are held to the same regard as Egos? No. Yet, I couldn’t help but find myself waiting for a show to make me feel the way Ego felt in this scene.
Claude fucking delivered.
Playing for over three hours, Claude seamlessly mixed techno, tech house, house, and deep house tracks from his own discocgraphy (like “EYE I EYE”, “Who’s Afraid of Detroit” “Lay It Down” and his remix of “Yo Vogue”), from other artists on his label (like “No Panties” again which no one was upset about, “People Forget” and “So Delicious”) ,and from dozens of other respected artists in the field. Not only did he play these signature dirtybird booty tech sounds, but also impeccably switched to unexpected genres, like hip-hop and slightly dove into the realm of acid house.
The set was so incredible that even the small sections that didn’t stand out as much would have been the most fire parts of any other DJ’s set. It was almost unfair. Kill Frenzy literally came out of the DJ booth to dance along with all of us that’s how fucking incredible it was. Claude whipped out secret weapon after secret weapon, ID tracks, ID remixes, and old gems that still stand the test of time (like Justin Martin & Ardalan’s four-year-old masterpiece “Mr. Spock”. Everytime a new song would drop in, Claude raised his own bar higher and higher. I can’t count the amount of times I turned to my friend and almost angrily exclaimed things like “are you fucking kidding me?” “is this a joke” and “this is just unfair”. I just seriously couldn’t believe what was transpiring around me. Claude closed his set out at 4 AM with the full version of “Can’t Wait”, igniting the now smaller crowd to new levels.
Once he finished, the entire crowd burst out into full on applause, something I’d never seen before. We all looked around at each other, awestruck. But were we going to accept that as the end? Absolutely not. An encore chant broke out and Claude came back on for the most perfect encore song, “The Clapping Track”, which mirrored the crowd’s appreciation. Outside on the street I had to take a second for myself. As dramatic as this sounds, I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy a set as much as I did that night, and this realization was bittersweet. I got in a cab to head back to Manhattan and all I could think of was Ratatouille. I finally experienced it.
Now should I quit reviewing and attending shows because of this? Probably. I feel like a heroin addict who will never get that first, strongest, best high back. But like the addict I am, I’m still going to go back for more attempting to recreate the high, subconsciously knowing all attempts will be futile.
So am I going to quit? No. But I’ll always keep this set in the back of my mind, silently judging all the other DJs who attempt to throw down a set as legendary as this one.
Now this may have sounded like the most melodramatic review, but let me have my fucking moment you Internet critics.