Contrary to the many opinions I heard amongst the Torontonian townfolk in line, I had purchased my ticket for last Saturday’s endeavors @ The Phoenix for the sole purpose that the name Nero was printed in wonderfully large letters on it. I can understand why alot of you were there to see Pretty Lights first and foremost, but the fact that I was in the presence of human beings that were openly claiming that they didn’t even care to see Nero that night is beyond me. I mean I often am filled with lament the day after a great concert, but both times I have seen Nero so far they have left me with a blood-thirsty craving that doesn’t seem to quell itself for at least a week thereafter.
The lineup that night was the longest I had ever witnessed at the historic Torontonian venue, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to slurrp my way into the fronter-most area almost instantaneously. The result of this massive people-related clusterfuck was a more than ample headcount for the opening trio of Keys N Krates to perform to. The last time I had seen them was when they opened for Cudi over a year ago, whereafter I became an avid fan for a while. Since then they kinda sifted their way down to my iTunes backburner since, it was a real treat to see them again as they really have some fantastic skill and incredible chemistry.
For me Pretty Lights set was entertaining, but it was a mere shadow of the appearances I had previously seen from him at Bonnaroo & Electric Zoo – sets that came complete with either his insane Jay Z-esque light show or his former drummer Adam Deitch by his side. The biggest plus was being able to secure a fantastic spot in the “upper loft” section of the venue, which would eventually allow for me to experience the insanity of Nero’s set void of any discomfort. Fortunately Dr. Robotnix wasn’t as big of a nancyboy as I that evening, and he was able to work his way down into the triple-thick section of the pit….
Act 1 – Welcome To Insanity
As soon as Pretty Lights was over, I rushed down to the front of the stage just as most were heading out to catch a last breath of fresh air. It wasn’t long before the mic got switched back on, the decks began revolving again, and the crowd once again scrambled to gobble up any available free space between them and Nero. The last time they were booked at The Phoenix, only Dan had come to play, but his glorious set proved he didn’t need Joe to melt the crowd. This time even though both of them were at the venue, Joe was the lone one spinning, and yet again, we didn’t need both to reach maximum epic-ality. I’m not sure what’s keeping the two from playing together here in Toronto, but I have a good feeling it has something to do with the foundation of the venue…or the fear of it crumbling.
Starting off the set with ‘Book of Harmony’ is like waking up to an injection of cocaine straight to your heart — which jumpstarted a crowd that had mellowed-out a bit too much during Pretty Lights’ set. Aside from being an experienced mosher, and knowing fully that the walls were gonna cave in at the drop, I still could not have prepared myself for the ravaging I endured once Nero’s set started clawing its way out of the speakers. As the track began blaring I was about 20 feet from the stage with a fairly dry shirt, and I contained within me enough energy to fuck a grizzly bear. But by the time the track had faded to ‘Guilt’, I was submerged in a giant adolescent sweat-exchanging fiesta, all whilst holding on to the stage for dear life as armageddon started unfolding both infront and behind me.
I was still struggling to survive in the thick fray when I began to hear the bridge of Skrillex‘s ‘Cinema’ remix. The surprised roar coming from the crowd meant that they too knew what was coming. I had planned to shove my way back out of the pit before all hell broke loose, but there was no way through the dense crowd fast enough; the beat had dropped and my body was consumed by the unrestrained zeal of a thousand bass-mongerers. My only saving grace was the cool breeze thumping out of the subwoofers, and the occasional shower of water bottles being tossed across the room.
A feeling of both excitement and panic arose when the synth line to Doctor P‘s ‘Big Boss’ launched the crowd into another frenzy. Being an avid listener of their Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1, I knew Joe was going to break into ‘Crush’ soon after — whereby I would once again get my fix of the lone track that I cant wait to get my hands on once the album drops. It became evident to me that everyone at The Phoenix shared my affinity with the track, as the crowd continued to turn the club into a giant sweaty game of upper-limb jenga. By this time I had relieved myself of all bodily fluids and was pouring out other people’s sweat exclusively, so I disappeared from inside the devil’s chode and reconvened with the rest of the crew upstairs.
Act 2 – Shaken Not Stirred
- 0.00-2.09 – Crush On You Extended
- 2.09-3.35 – I Cant Stop
- 3.35-9.23 – DnB Muckspree
- 9.23-10.26 – Hold On (Sub Focus Remix)
- 10.26-12.12 – Nothing Yet
- 12.12 – Ruffneck Bass
The glorious feeling of not being packed like a sardine awaited me upstairs, where TWG crew has unofficially made it their HQ for every event at The Phoenix thus far. A perfect vantage point allowed me to witness the crowd, in all it’s sweaty glory, go buckwild when ‘I Can’t Stop’ scorched through the air and caught everyone completely by surprise. I was beginning to feel the effects of dehydration coupled with rib-shattering bass, and tried to catch a breather while Joe paid homage to the genre that got him and Dan Stephens to where they are today.
A slow acceleration from Flux Pavilion’s masterpiece had every hand raised high in anticipation for the breakneck speed this show was headed towards, whereby myself and several fans upstairs joined in on the madness with a wildly frantic stepping sesh. It wasn’t long till the bpm lowered once more and Joe decided to play more of the popular tracks – starting with Sub Focus‘ remix of ‘Hold On’ that had everybody singing along contently. Joe also hit us with Skrillex‘s unreleased banger ‘Nothing Yet’, a massive track that I fell in love with after hearing Sonny drop it earlier this month. The Skrill-fest continued with ‘Ruffneck Bass’, to which an all-out war between my feet and my lungs ensued, with neither side coming out of that battle victorious.
- 0.00-1.31 – Ruffneck Bass + ???
- 1.31-3.13 – Warp 1.9
- 3.13-4.20 – ???
- 4.20-6.29 – Threnody
- 6.29-7.33 – Undertaker
- 7.33 – Sabotage
This next barrage of electro-house fantasticness that Joe pumped out is a testament to the mixing prowess of the duo, and is a textbook example as to how to properly maximize the energetic potential of a crowd. There are many out there who are quick to criticize DJs for hopping genres drastically throughout their sets, but again, I really don’t understand why. Having someone like Nero trim the fat off their own material, and fill the void with tracks like Warp 1.9, Undertaker and THRENODY, is a fucking blessing. To cap it all off they dropped Sabotage by The Beastie Boys, whereby the essences of Toronto, Brooklyn and London all fused together into a shimmering orb of #hiphoprelatedawesomeness.
Act 3 – Takin’er Back
- 0.00-1.37 – Tetris (Doctor P Remix)
- 1:37-2:54 – 16 Bit – Skull Crack
- 2:54-4:56 – Welcome Reality
- 4:56-9:10 – CTFO Remix
- 9:10- My Eyes
The final 20 or so minutes that comprised Joe’s set that evening was no doubt the most fun I’ve had at a concert in a while. In this first portion I was treated to a handful of my favourite tracks currently, all while getting to witness a rather large woman successfully crowdsurf the rowdiest crowd I’ve ever seen at The Phoenix. It also included the highlight of the evening for me; My Eyes – which was far and beyond more spectacular than I had hoped it to be live. Alana Watson’s “Big Brother-ey” sounding vocals are incredible infront of each one of Nero’s productions, but in my opinion ‘My Eyes’ is the one track on the upcoming album where everything just fucking gooed together perfectly.
And finally we arrive and the ‘pièce de résistance’ as it were, as for their last hoorah of the evening Joe decided to awaken the rowdy and freckled essence of my former highschool self. Just as Me & You’s last drop began to loop away, that random MC who is always at The Phoenix got back on the mic and I thought the night was over….thank jebus I was wrong. Already half way out of my chair I hear the opening line of Chop Suey start creeping around the room, and once this happened I was so overhwlmed with nostalgia and positivity that I mangled the shit out of both my chair and myself. I got up without even noticing what had happened and proceeded to thrash around in a manner befitting a child on his birthday.
I hope everyone who was in attendance with me that evening appreciates what they got to experience, as I dont think you can ever expect to see the UK duo perform at such an intimate venue again. Matched with the fact that I paid $25 for my ticket, and that two very respectable openers had graced the stage as well, the night was in essence sublime. I left the venue that evening almost completely without my hearing and sense of equilibrium, but I was utterly appeased with my life for the entire car ride home…..until the next morning.
Cant wait to see you all @ WEMF in 2 weeks…
- Signed Sincerely, The Worst Guy and Dr. Robotnix