Last Night: DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at House of Blues

The Hard Sell? Only a little. (Jessica Walker)
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DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist Jan. 19, 2008 House of Blues

Better Than: When I drink too much Shiraz and play classic '80s records for my friends for hours and hours and hours…

Wand-ed down once again for another live music extravaganza at House of Blues. On the lavishly priced menu tonight: turntablist hero DJ Shadow and his scratching buddy Cut Chemist. The House of Blues lent herself gracefully to the impressive turntable trickery of The Hard Sell, the new live project of DJ Shadow (Josh Davis) and Cut Chemist (Lucas MacFadden).

The curtains spread at 10:20 p.m. to reveal a wall of eight turntables and several crates of vinyl -- a musical mote that separated the venerable deejays from the mix-master loyalists. A giant video screen played us a kitschy public service announcement-type collage of pictures and instructions of what was about to go down on stage. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist were going to spin an hour-long set using only 45-inch records. And, according to our informative video, this was a feat that deserved much more respect than the “impersonal” efforts of popular laptop deejay techniques. (This show stood a flagrant fuck-you to the Laptop Deathmatch at Sloppyworld last night.) Because, after all, as the narrator insisted, “45s have grooves!”

The video screen rolled throughout the show displaying an animated homage to the classic 45 with brief interruptions of handi-cam close-ups of the deejays live maneuvering. Shadow and Cut Chemist’s robotic arms swiveled and swooshed over the tiny records slicing up Digable Planets, Outkast, Foo Fighters, Aaliyah and this twisted remix of the Gilligan’s Island theme song smashed with "Stairway to Heaven." It was wicked.

But The Hard Sell was exactly that. Most of the set was extremely technical -- a proud exhibition of a debatable art form. The guys coaxed us from the beginning to understand just how awesome they were and continued boasting their plumage throughout the show to a degree that left the audience alienated. Anyone that came to dance last night was certainly disappointed. The cut-ups and samples were so swift and roving that the crowd could only break into short episodic wiggles. Some appeared bored or disgruntled, but most seemed in awe of the musical leftovers that had been surgically amalgamated into a fluent mix of modern harmony and scratchy beats. -- Krissi Reeves

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: Turntablism is a musical art form. Some vehemently state that deejays are not musicians. I vehemently disagree.

By the Way: You can order a cd or video of The Hard Sell here.

Random Detail: Glow sticks. The kiddies in front of brought glow sticks.

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