Warm Up: Andrés, Kyle Hall, Laaraji, Pender Street Steppers b2b Hashman Deejay
MoMA PS1; Long Island City, NY

MoMA PS1’s Warm Up series is a weekly, summer-long string of electronic music concerts taking place in the museum’s sunny courtyard area every Saturday afternoon. This summer such acts as Moritz von Oswald, Veronica Vasicka, Derrick May, A.G. Cook, Boys Noize, and more have been on the roster. I was especially psyched for this lineup, funkier than most of the techno fare: Andrés, Kyle Hall, Pender Street Steppers b2b Hashman Deejay, and Laaraji.

This review almost didn’t happen, as I was nearly turned away at the door for trying to sneak in food — had I been kicked out, I would not have been the first TMT writer this summer to earn that distinction. I looked all around the building for a way to sneak in, or at least sneak my sandwich in — impossible. Having neither the palate nor the budget for the horse meat dinners PS1 was recently in the news for, I set my sights on a Canadian delicacy of an altogether different sort — the Mood Hut crew.

Mood Hut, based in Vancouver on the Canadian Riviera, is to my mind one of the sickest groups of musicians doing it right now. Some of its heavier hitters (Pender Street Steppers [of which one half is Jack J], Hashman Deejay) were booked for this event, and for a chance to see them I was more than willing to make quick amends with the security guards, entering with my head high and my stomach full.

As I walked in to the PS1 courtyard, some delightfully dreamy, delayed-out dulcimer droplets dripped down on me, sounding almost like Laaraji… wait, it is Laaraji! Laaraji’s on this fuckin’ bill? Stacked!! Had no idea. He sounded stellar, but the crowd seemed largely oblivious to the fact that a set was taking place at all. It was a bit strange seeing this massively revered figure as an ignored opening act in his home city — his presence on the bill made a lot of sense in curatorial terms, but he evoked a sense of disquieting beauty, like an ornate, unique prewar building stuck on a block of new condos; a remnant of a bygone era that, since I grew up in a different one, I can only sense but not describe.

Up next was Hashman Deejay b2b Pender Street Steppers. The music lived up to my already sky-high expectations, and then some. I love L.I.E.S.-style hardware techno as much as anyone, but it does sorta dominate the Brooklyn scene at present, and seeing some DJs go equally hard on some groovy shit was refreshing. Unfortunately, the overall atmosphere made that all but impossible to enjoy. 

It’s a music particularly suited to dark, humid rooms, intimate spaces wherein one can get lost in the music, connecting with it on both a personal and communal level, feeling comfortable to respond to the music however you like without having to worry about looking or moving in a certain way, or being scrutinized. PS1 Warm-Ups are pretty much the exact opposite of this — a bright, outdoor space filled with young professionals who have way more financial and social capital than you, and where seeing and being seen are the two primary activities (drinking third, music somewhere further down the list).

I’m generally uncomfortable here. I miss my squad. I see someone I worked with four years ago, neither of us say anything to the other. Why can’t I make the most of my free time? In 10 years I’ll be middle aged. I have no concept of how attractive or unattractive I might be. I didn’t have any of these unwelcome thoughts before I came to this concert.

The outstanding Mood Hut set was capped on an even higher note, with the addition of some live vocals (by a woman whose name either wasn’t mentioned or I didn’t catch) to the funky, mellow beats that had been going on since the opening track. By the end of their set I was mentally filling out my Canadian visa paperwork and applying for residency in Vancouver. 

Up next was Kyle Hall, who kept the sounds right DJing some of the night-time deep house he’s known for as a producer. But even that solid set was overshadowed by a feeling of uneasiness regarding my surroundings. I wish I didn’t take music so personally — if I hear music I really love, it’s like that music is my friend, and if I were to see someone treating my friend like a commodity to be treated as cheap amusement rather than faced as a person with a heart and soul, I’d be deeply hurt, and that’s how I felt from Laaraji’s gorgeous opening notes through my early departure from the Warm Up.

If you’re looking to have craft beer splashed all over you by a day-drinking weekend warrior ironically dancing to music you really care about, it’s not too late — there will be a fresh round of opportunities in 2016.

Most Read