Isotope 217

Isotope 217

with DJ C-X

Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando, FL • October 7, 1999

Quite a packed club for a Thursday night. DJ C-X was spinning when I arrived. Mostly hip-hop stuff, a little bit of new and old, with some oddball stuff like the beginning of Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” thrown in every once in a while. It was fun for a while. Towards the end he couldn’t seem to stay off the mic, which may not have been so bad if it weren’t obnoxiously loud and reverbed. I began to feel like I was at a bad party where someone had hijacked the DJ equipment, except this time there was a captive audience. Oh, thank you, Mr. DJ, please explain to me what a locked groove is and give a little demonstration. And on and on it went. Obnoxious. When you run out of good ideas, just stop.

So Isotope 217 got a bit of a heartier cheer from me when they finally took the stage. Our saviors. Out came the jazz. Five members playing drums, percussion, bass, guitar, trumpet and vintage keyboards confidently traversing the realms of both rock and jazz. For a while they fulfilled all my hopes for this show — smooth, flawless ensemble work, following the song frameworks yet adding improvisational spice throughout. All the musicians were fascinating to watch, but the drummer and percussionist were the ones who I ended up paying the most attention to, maybe just because that’s who I was closest to. That and it was fun to watch them when they let loose. Some new songs got played, giving us something to look forward to, and so did some old ones. The one I was waiting for made it into their set, “Looking After Life On Mars” from their latest album Utonian_Automatic on Thrill Jockey, with the guitar doubling up the trumpet and an electronic beat finish courtesy of a little blinking box. Amazing.

That’s what I’m going to let myself remember from this show, as the ending was rather sour. Someone started yelling “Play all night!” from the crowd. That got turned into a chant. A beat was put behind it and DJ C-X was back up on stage again. Freestyling. Badly. It was funny at first, but just as before, it droned on and on. Someone else got onstage and sang sweetly with a little more success, but altogether it was just a bad idea. People started filing outside.

The set ended and they were coaxed back out for another song. Cool, they’ll end on a positive note, right? No, here comes DJ C-X again. And some kid who thinks he’s Rahzel. I walked outside to escape the din. When I came back in, the DJ was playing the drums with all the skill of someone with a week’s worth of lessons. Horrible. Very disappointing to see an absolutely amazing show degenerate into a distracting chaotic mess.

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