Ekali Takes Aisle 5 to New Heights
If you’re a regular at the Little 5 Points’ Aisle 5 like I am, then you’ve probably noticed that most of the crowd tends to be full of heady hippies. As a result, they are often calmer than the average swarm at Opera or Jungle. EDM sets are usually reserved for more “mainstream” venues, while Aisle 5 sticks to underground bass, funk, and rock. At Ekali’s recent show there, however, the crowd was amped up far more than I’m used to seeing and the “ATL Hoe”-shouting partiers (and a considerable amount of beer) were liberally scattered around the room.
Opening up was Electric Mantis, who played a future bass show that would have been great as an opener for San Holo if it hadn’t relied so heavily on San Holo’s own catalog to keep the groove going. A lot of opening DJs I have been hearing lately just iPod their way through a set with too many breaks and awkward fumbles with the microphone in between songs, but Electric Mantis kept things moving along nicely for over an hour. I appreciated the consistent flow of the set, but I started to give glances to my companions after the third song by San Holo played over the speakers. Everyone enjoyed the vibe, however, and it certainly got the crowd gently warmed up for the trap that was to come later in the night.
I was pretty excited about the Ekali show right when it was first announced, so I got my tickets early. This turned out to be a good idea, as it, like so many other of Together At Last’s recent events, ended up a sold out show. To me, Ekali falls in the ranks of other exciting young producers like Luca Lush and Mura Masa who tread the overlapping lines between future bass and hip-hop with heavy doses of trap horns and filtered effects. Ekali is no main stage star, but he has been gaining significant attention lately after performances at Coachella and Hard Summer in 2016, as well as collaborations with names like Falcons, G Jones, and Gravez.
Ekali has been accused of phoning in some of his performances, but I thought he demonstrated pretty considerable skill on the decks. He relied on a lot of his own edits and mixes that we’ve heard before in sets like his recent Too Future guest mix, but I thought he was somewhere on the level of NGHTMRE or Marshmello, who I consider to be two of the better pure EDM DJs touring around now. During the first half of Ekali’s set, I heard no music that I didn’t know, and I began to grow worried that I was just going to hear one more EDM set full of the “best of” tracks from 2015 and 2016. About a third of the way into his set, however, he took a bit of a left turn, and things began to open up into much more imaginative and rare territory.
By the end of Ekali’s set, the audience was eating out of the palm of his hand, singing along to Kendrick Lamar hits and creating the closest thing to a mosh pit that I’ve seen at Aisle 5. It was certainly the highest energy I’ve ever seen in that room, and it’s great to see the venue branching out into new territory. The floor was soaked in beer, and most of the audience in sweat as things wound down, and we all made our various ways home.