Joel Zimmerman has had a busy year. He released the ambitious, heavily Trent Reznor-influenced while(1<2) double album in June, swooped into Miami to replace ailing headliner Avicii at Ultra Music Festival, continued to post episodes of his mobile Coffee Run talk show on YouTube and competed in the international Gumball 3000 motor rally. Last night's Honda Stage Custom Concert with Live Nation is in keeping with the overarching car theme of his 2014 extracurricular activities.
Tuesday's show resembled a classic underground rave in several respects: Sternum-rumbling dance music and hypnotic lights filled a cavernous, off-the-beaten-path industrial space with no alcohol for sale (the Knockdown Center is a “dry” venue). As Montreal DJ-producer Eekkoo warmed up a crowd that had started lining up after lunchtime to ensure their free entry— that's no easy task, but he rose to the challenge—fans swayed in glow stick mouse ears and LED-rigged shutter shades. The 50,000-square-foot converted factory was full but not overcrowded, and the occasional mau5head bobbed just above the fray.
Deadmau5, dressed in his customary jeans, t-shirt and cap, took the stage right on time and immediately called out crowd members who'd been inexplicably chanting "U-S-A!" "Hey! We've got two Canadians up here." After making sure the YouTube stream was a go ("Are we on the Internet?"), Zimmerman launched his seamless 90-minute set with "Some Chords" and cheers erupted as he finally donned his black mau5head.
The set gave Zimmerman's fans a taste of what to expect from 5 Years of Mau5, a two-disc bundle of essential classics plus remixes from fellow EDM heavy-hitters like Dillon Francis, Madeon and Eric Prydz. It wasn't long before Zimmerman was slowly teasing in the intro to "Ghosts 'n' Stuff," building to a jubilant DJ-crowd singalong. As adorable Pac-Man-esque 8-bit visuals swirled onscreen, he dropped another live gem, blending his remix of Morgan Page's "The Longest Road" with "My Pet Coelacanth" from while(1<2).
The mau5head was intermittently removed throughout the show (Too hot? Undue pressure on his neck? Hard to hear the monitor?), but his focus was unwavering as "Aural Psynapse" and "Maths"—both of which get remixed on 5 Years—thundered through the space's lush soundsystem. The dance party moved toward its peak as Zimmerman tore into while standout "Gula" and intensified as he dropped the Tommy Trash remix of "The Veldt" followed by "Strobe." "You There?", a rare track from 2013, also made an appearance, sampling 1990s rave pioneer Josh Wink's "Are You There?"
Zimmerman closed with "Seeya," his uncharacteristically funky stomper that evokes Homework-era Daft Punk, and then walked to the lip of the stage to bid the appreciative crowd goodnight.
Deadmau5 often makes headlines for his uncensored remarks and cynical views, but he was all positivity last night and the crowd returned the love. The devoted horde has plenty to look forward to when he kicks off his Entropy tour in 2015.