with Q-Burn’s Abstract Message
The Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando, FL • February 21, 2001
Experimental beats in Orlando? “YES!” I thought to myself. It’s tough to find the rigorously avant-garde in Orlando outside of selected nights at Stardust Video and Coffee, so the arrival of Paul D. Miller, better known as DJ Spooky, had me pumped.
Doors were at 8:00, the show started around 10:30. This gave me plenty of time to walk around downtown, catch some food and enjoy the weather. When my friend and I returned to Sapphire, we found out that Michael Donaldson, a.k.a. Q-Burn’s Abstract Message, was DJing before Spooky. “Even better!” I thought. Q-Burn’s took his time taking the stage, but it was worth the wait. He started off with a heavy dose of dub, with plenty of echo, reverb, and FX thrown in. His set kept getting more and more stripped down, as he moved through down-tempo jazziness to house and then to some deeper, more minimal deep house. As the set progressed, he minimized the effects and focused on the flow. He spun for more than an hour, and while his mix was very clean and cohesive, I was glad when it was over. It was getting late, and I was antsy.
DJ Spooky sucked. In a really big way. His set was bad in only the way that someone completely misusing their potential can be bad, because Miller’s got the chops. In fact, his skills are a lot more solid than Donaldson’s. But Donaldson played within his limits and spun a set that was rounded and cohesive. Miller, on the other hand, could only manage bombast, pomp, and shock to propel his ill-suited mix. His virtuosity became a hindrance rather than an asset, because he got caught in the trap of “gee whiz, look at all these sounds!” rather than finding a common ground between hip-hop, musique concrete, noise, and drum n’ bass. During the beginning of the set, he stuck with juxtaposing hip-hop, noise and various broken beats. I think he was trying to comment on and dissolve the high/low art duality, but all he really managed to do was re-invent the cataclysm of the Bomb Squad.
On stage with Spooky were a tabla player and an electric bass. I was hoping a bassist would accompany him onstage, but I was horrified when he took up a bow and began to saw away at it! He was playing through a delay pedal, but instead of adding a new melodic element to the set, he just droned away on it, contributing to the smash-up that was occurring simultaneously on the turntables. Really, it was kind of pathetic. After about an hour and a half, I was set to leave. But, things began to look up when he started spinning some techstep that eventually segued into some brokebeat/splatterbreak madness. I’m sure I heard more than a little bit of Venetian Snares and some DJ Scud there. However, when he grabbed the bass again, it was 2:00 AM, and I had to leave. How the mighty have fallen. ◼