By Sam Lawrence
Photos by Ryan Purcell
Holy hell, this one was lit. All the way turnt up. Three fire emojis.
This past Friday, a sold-out crowd gathered to see Excision take over The Tabernacle, with support from Bear Grillz and Figure. Excision has risen to the throne over the dubstep scene in North America. Bear Grillz is a DJ who performs in a mask, but in his case it's a full plush teddy bear head and a bearskin onesie. He was entertaining, but nothing exceptional. Figure also started out a little weak, but picked things up by the second half of his set. In truth, it's hard to judge these artists fairly as the volume was turned way down for their sets, and they had no visual accompaniment except for a few spotlights. All the fun stuff was saved for the main event.
Excision has never held back on his visuals and now that he's the reigning king of American dubstep, it only made sense that he would invest in the most insane stage setup he could afford. That said, I don't think any of us expected The Paradox. Imagine a wall-to-wall HD video screen that completely covers the back wall of the Tabernacle. 3-D animations of dinosaurs, robots, and fire in a non-stop spiral of chaos and fury. Directly behind the DJ is a halo of pulsing light that pumps in perfect time with the beat and issues out new evil-looking components to the insane scenes that cover this screen. Now imagine that around the entire frame of this stage, a border of spotlights, strobes, and lasers is constantly firing and creating geometric shapes that extend from the stage deep into the z-axis, over the heads of the crowd.
As if this wasn't enough, the DJ booth itself was covered in LED display on three sides and rose up in the air at a few points during the show to reveal more lasers and nitrogen cannons underneath, then blasting out fog that enveloped the first 50 feet of the crowd. The stage was utter insanity with the cherry on top being someone in a fully animatronic T-Rex suit who came out and leered at the crowd. Not one of those inflatable jobs you've seen on YouTube, this rig had metal braces on the legs and a long latex tail that whipped back and forth as the mouth snarled at the front row.
The most astonishing thing about the video wall wasn't just the sharpness of the images and brightness, but the frame rate and responsiveness of the display. Apparently the whole thing is made from LEDs, which explains how it was technically possible, but technology is meaningless unless wedded to art. Whoever created Excision’s animations clearly made it a labor of love. Not only did each song he played have a unique video track, these clips were more like scenes with progressive animations that unfolded over time. It was absolutely breathtaking and most likely represented close to half a million dollars in technology investment and art assets.
Dubstep shows aren't always known for having the friendliest crowds, but the young, sweaty bodies gathered at The Tabernacle belonged to some of the nicest people I've seen out at a show of that size. Everyone was head banging and pumping their fists, but no shoving or rudeness happened that I could tell. Mosh pits kept to themselves and did a good job of making sure no shorter or weaker people were injured. It was possible, dare I say even easy, for me to walk right up to the front rail through the middle of the crowd, then return to my friends once I'd gotten a good look at the stage setup. I think part of the communal feeling in the audience may simply have been due to everyone’s state of shock at the immense show they were witnessing. Talking to a few people in the crowd, the astonishment really never had time to wear off as Excision dropped barrage after barrage of bass and psychedelic visual violence on us.
This show was dubstep in its purest form. Angry, loud, and unrelenting; the show only took a brief break when Excision played an uplifting melodic track and the video wall displayed an enormous golden angel made of fire. This was a welcome respite, but short lived, as Excision took us right back into hard-hitting drums within thirty seconds.
Excision is king in the dubstep world and he deserves every bit of the title. I've never seen a show with so much attention to detail and overblown energy. I've never enjoyed four hours of solid dubstep as much as that night. If he can ever top this tour, then he will emerge as not just the greatest dubstep artist, but as one of the premiere audio-visual artists around. No photos or video can do justice to the impressiveness of The Paradox, and it provides the perfect accompaniment to his raw mixes. Metal may be dead, but its spirit lives on in the headbanging frenzy of an Excision show. Long live the metal.