Photos by Hannah Jor.
Eschewing the normal crowds of Entertainment District rich kids looking for bottle service clubs and dubstep fans looking to take strange substances to enhance their nights, The Hoxton had a modest crowd (by its standards) filled with a crowd of a similar age range of kids in their late twenties. DJ Jeff Button was spinning some records that had the crowd settle into a nice groove. Not too fast causing everyone to sweat through their shirts and not too slow to make that one weird couple get extra freaky on the dance floor. The kind of music you want to hear for the non-club going attendees; it wasn’t top 40 pop and rap and it wasn’t the same Diplo or Skrillex remix that we hear at every EDM set. Button spun some nice deephouse and trance to get the crowd nice and pumped for the main act of the night.
This is going to make it seem like I went to high school in an 1980’s teen movie, but in the mid 2000’s I hung out with the break dancing crowd a group of guys who spent every lunch hour doing windmills, flares, and handstands but also listened to quite a diverse set of music. This is where I first heard Kid A, early k-os was on repeat and a handful of tracks from a producer known as RJD2 always made the cut. Hearing his electronic meets hip-hop meets jazz beats clicked instantly and I was hooked. Once when I purchased his latest record The Third Hand back in 2007 I became the coolest guy in the group for about 2 days until they realized that RJD2’s first foray into a rock centric album with more vocal tracks than instrumentals made it quite difficult to b-boy to.
RJD2 whose birth name is legitimately Ramble Jon Krohn came out dressed as his Commissioner Crotch Button’s alter ego wearing a jump suit covered in LED strips and donning a welder’s mask. He also had on a belt where a drum pad faced outwards from below his waist that he was able to rotate like it was rims on a car from Pimp Your Ride. Using a vocoder on his microphone he welcomed the crowd as he smashed on the drum pad causing lights to flash on his suit. He towered over the crowd like a villain from a monster movie made by Troma.
After stripping out of his jump suit he got behind the large table that was filled to the brim with gear. Four turntables, two drum pads and a laptop crowded in front of him, making him way more than a ‘push play DJ’. The other impressive aspect of his performance was that he did it all without headphones something that is not only rare in the electronic world, it’s downright unheard of. While his laptop kept track of bpm’s and songs playing, Krohn’s ears and years of experience guided him by instinct and feel to the point you can imagine him blindfolded and still being able to read the crowd and put on a stellar show.
A staple of RJD2’s live shows include starting out with his remixed version of Good Times Roll (now with a Part II in the title) harkening to what someone like Jamie xx is doing today with classic soul music as well. Since the beginning of his career Krohn has been experimenting with soul sounds with the likes of Smoke & Mirrors, a song played early on that is both haunting and beautiful. Watching him grab records and flip them around so quickly and know exactly where to scratch the beat was at times more fun then just dancing to the music.
RJD2’s latest release was 2016’s Dame Fortune, a return to his older styles more instrumental hip-hop meets jazz. While most of the tracks that feature guest vocalists went un-played, Peace of What was still spun, as was the music only A New Theory with its RL Grime like clacking electro snare beat. It wasn’t all new stuff as some disco beats made their way in to let people just enjoy their night out dancing as everyone seemed intently focused on having a great night. His mostly stoic face would light up a few times when people at the front cheered on a new beat being played.
By the end of the set some of his biggest songs were played, the horn filled salsa song 1976 elicited the biggest cheers of the night, The Horror a song that brought him to prominence and to end the set was Ghostwriter, that he tried to hide behind a different sample at first but the guitar tone was unmistakable from the get go. Krohn thanked the crowd and looked like he was going to start packing up since it was well past 2:00 AM already, as close to half the crowd filed out everyone else shouted “one more song” over and over again. Much like how a rapper will freestyle, Krohn seemed to relish the idea of playing something outside of his normal set and he convinced himself to play for an additional fifteen minutes as those that remained jumped in the air and got crazier than they had earlier. He thanked everyone yet again for coming out and crouched at the front of the stage personally selling records and t-shirts to people who hoarded around him just for a chance to say hello.
While I may have waited over ten years to finally catch an RJD2 set, all expectations were met and he remains a must see act for anyone that is a fan of a little bit of everything.