dj krush. my love for music. and myself.
I took a cue from the “How To Be Alone” video a few posts back and took myself to the DJ Krush show at The Roxy last night. I’ve always wanted to try going to a show alone, and after meeting a girl at the Nosaj Thing show the previous night who had gone alone solely because she loved the music, I felt inspired. I had been lamenting about not having any hip hop heads to share my passion with, so the video came at a good time and was the extra push I needed to click “Purchase” on my PayPal cart. That, and my dear friend and co-worker Jenny who I had to seek approval from first.
I will admit it was highly intimidating being (a) a girl and (b) alone. When I first entered, I awkwardly looked around the venue for a “safe” spot where I might avoid being seen. Having no such luck, I then bought myself a drink just so I’d have something to fiddle with in my hands. Funny how that happens, when we’re alone. Naturally, our hands search for something to busy ourselves with, whether it be a drink, or frantically texting all of our friends so we’d have something to do. (Which I was also guilty of—having texted friends from all over, even one in New York, just so I could look “busy.”) Being aware of that habit, I gradually tried not to reach for my phone and allow myself to stand idly, staring into space as I waited for the opening act. Definitely a feat that needs more practice.
Then there’s choosing where to stand. Being a girl, it’s easy for us to be labelled as groupies. Having that thought in mind, I positioned myself a few feet back from being directly in front of the stage. I realized later that, just as I shouldn’t care how “busy” or “alone” I look, I shouldn’t even care what I’m labelled as. What helped was a nice group of guys that motioned for me to stand next to one of their girlfriends in the very front. So there I was, posted up against the row of huge monitors that lined the stage, which I would quickly discover packed an intense amount of low end heat. Great choice, I thought to myself, as my hair and clothes fluttered everywhere every time the bass dropped.
To my surprise, Daddy Kev opened. Another talented DJ/producer, who, as some may know, throws the critically-acclaimed “Low End Theory” event in Los Angeles. As if that couldn’t get any better, Nocando walked out and did a freestyle set to Daddy Kev’s entire mix of eclectic beats, some of which included tributes to J.Dilla. Watching Nocando close his eyes, move his head and smile every so often as his voice, words and tempos fluctuated was inspiring to say the least, to see someone so engulfed in his passion. So happy.
Then DJ Krush appeared a speedy 15 minutes after Daddy Kev’s set. As the curtain lifted, I scrambled for my iPhone camera, wondering about the lighting and whether they’d light him up a bit more so I could get a decent photo. They didn’t. Throughout his set, I was flooded with a mix of emotions and memories. I thought about my first love, how we used to listen to hip hop together, and go to every show in LA together. How I heard DJ Krush for the very first time: he handed me Krush’s CD to listen to on my portable CD player during our minivan ride back from a Vegas trip with his family. How I still have his DJ Krush CDs. How I was now standing there, nine years later, a few feet from the legendary DJ Krush, alone. And how I wasn’t sad about that at all.
I thought about how there are few things in life I love more than hip hop. How I might even love it more than I love art. It represents soul, an untouched sub-community that moves people, inspires people. It has evolved over decades to marry the simplest and most complex technologies. While some of these technologies have diluted the talent pool a bit too much, the truly talented, such as DJ Krush, can evolve themselves over a period of two decades, and still be highly revered by those truest to the art.
I felt giddy thinking about this. Truly, head-over heels, madly in love, giddy.
There’s no way I can describe the full 3-hour set. I can still picture in my mind the delicate, yet deliberate, way he would navigate the knobs, buttons and decks. But how can you ever fully understand that watching a DJ can be like watching a painter at work, deeply engrossed in front of a canvas, unless you actually saw it yourself? And the way he looked up at the audience every few songs—a slight (yet deliberate, much like all of his movements) lift of his head, and then quickly back to his canvas before him. It was a subtle and humble act of acknowledgement and gratitude to his loving audience. A tiny motion of the body and a symbol of communication I think only someone of Japanese descent and culture could perform. He even bowed at one point, after he slipped up and made a mistake, and I could hear him in my mind: “Sumimasen.” I thought about how lucky I was to know and respect this small bit of Japanese culture because I had travelled there 3 years ago. How there’s still so much more to learn and understand about people around the world.
Watching him—the DJ, the artist, the legend—at work, was hands down one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had in a long time. I was reminded why I love hip hop so much. Beyond that, why I love turntablism so much. Why I’ve dreamt about mastering it for more than half my life. And how much harder I want to work on achieving that dream, now that I can.
The first two hours, I moved my body only slightly to the beats, but as we approached the third hour, I found myself really letting go. Moving my head, swinging my hips, closing my eyes, with cheers of approval escaping from my lips. No alcohol, no drugs, no friends by my side, no safety net. Just me, and the music.
I felt freedom in its purest form.
If I had to choose one moment to remember, it would be: when he mixed DJ Shadow’s “Organ Donor” with one of his own classics, “Kemuri.” I found a video from a show in 2009, basically the same thing. Still doesn’t compare to how amazing it was to hear (and feel) live. One of my all time favorite DJs paying homage to one of my other all time favorite DJs. Words can’t even describe how much that means to me.
It was the perfect night alone.