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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    How DJs defused my identity crisis

    Andi Berlinarts columnist
    Andi Berlin
    arts columnist

    I was staring at possibly the ugliest mural I had ever seen. It looked like a caricature from the state fair, and it was of two alien people. The man had an unproportionally large football head with brush strokes that resembled a painting at Universal Studios, and the woman looked like the son of Tom Cruise and that crying Christian evangelist with the pink hair.

    For one of the hippest DJs in Europe, this wasn’t the venue I had expected. I’m not sure why the German duo Modeselektor chose Phoenix as one of their only U.S. destinations, but I was convinced it was the wrong decision. First of all, there were about 10 high school hipsters in tiny workout shorts and mini backpacks sitting in round tables at the bar area, drinking, surprisingly. But that was it. Nobody else, nobody cool was there. Second of all, the beers were all $4, and my friend had just paid $6 for a miniature Jack and Coke in a plastic cup. There were Budweiser advertisements all over the walls, and the bartender looked like a Suns cheerleader.

    I wasn’t sure if the group I had come to see was even on yet (it’s always hard to tell with DJs) so I sat outside and strained to hear the muffled sounds of the new Radiohead album coming from a VW Bug parked next to me. The music was comforting, because it was the only thing I knew. Although I had grown up in Chandler, downtown Phoenix was still foreign and intimidating. I had no idea where anything was, but I felt compelled to defend it against my friends, who weren’t really complaining as much as I magined.

    Phoenix has always been confusing that way. Even though it’s your hometown, the longer you stay in Tucson, the more you’re compelled by its community and individuality. You’re revolted by the freeways and Targets in Phoenix but shamed and proud of your history there. Every situation you encounter explodes into a symbol of what the city is, and your relationship with it and social status are always under question in your mind. The bars you see there and the time you have are a childhood model of what you were and are. It’s unproportionally important.

    I went back inside and realized the black curtain behind the stage was pulled back and two guys were stepping up to a black table in the center. Green lights exploded everywhere and all you could see were the symbols of two Apple computers covered by a wall of neon. A pounding electronic beat filled the small room up to my ears, which were caving in by the pressure.

    It was so intense that for a moment I forgot where I was, and remembered my short time in London, where I spent a lot of time in the hip mega-club Fabric. With four gigantic rooms that fit at least 1,000 people each, and all of the world’s most renowned DJs. Fabric was like an electronic Coachella three nights a week.

    Modeselektor channeled that energy. I almost felt kind of bad for them before, because they had collaborated with Thom Yorke and here they were performing for about a dozen people. But now I understood. It didn’t seem to matter to them that they were in Phoenix, that they weren’t in London, that they weren’t in Tucson.

    They were still pounding out the dips and dats and startlingly bizarre remixes of European hip-hop that they were known for, and everyone there was into it. People were flailing their arms, dancing extravagantly, pounding down beers. The only thing missing was people doing drugs, but maybe I just missed it because I was new.

    Perhaps in a few more months or trips to Phoenix, I would encounter some of that behavior. Then I’d really have something to make excuses about.

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