Mr. Carmack Underwhelms in Trap City
I had seen Mr. Carmack once before, at Freaky Deaky in Chicago, but never on my home turf. I was excited to see him throw down in the trap capitol of the world, and I clearly wasn’t alone as shouts of “ATL Hoe” rose up from the audience all night. I arrived during Rexx Life Raj’s opening set, which was a mix of RnB sing-alongs, West Coast hip-hop DJing, and wordy conversations with the audience. I wasn’t too much of a fan of the performance, but I have a tendency to prefer openers who either stick to the music or use their stage time to do something worth watching. Happily, I used the time to grab a bite to eat at the always delicious Stationside and settle into my first drink of the evening.
Mr. Carmack is a certified trap god, but like the deities of Greek mythology, even our gods are imperfect. Terminal West sold out for his visit and the crowd was beyond enthusiastic during the heavier moments of his set, but things were a bit choppy getting started. There were lots of rewinds and other little effects that reminded us that he was really DJing, but that failed to add much to the sound coming out of the speakers. I don’t think he did himself any favors by choosing to DJ by eye instead of using headphones. Still, things kept moving along well all night, and it was a chance to hear some of his secret stash of some of the best trap music around right now. It felt less like a concert and more like a gathering of trap heads, all nodding together in agreement that bass music is cool.
Carmack’s gifts as a producer have been shared with the underground music scene for years now, and he has made considerable contributions to the trap game with tracks like “Uppers,” “Blouses,” and “Bang.” He is massively talented and has been a considerable force behind trap music’s evolution toward lounge, soul, and jazz as classic sources for hip hop inspiration. Along with names like Kaytranada, Luca Lush, and Andrew Luce; he has played a part in revitalizing trap music after the enormous wave of EDM went commercial and helped RnB flavor mixed in among the heavy bass drops. The ATL crowd went absolutely bananas each time one of his builds would drop into some juicy 808 territory, to the extent that they were slapping their hands on the DJ table that was precariously placed right at the front of the stage. Everyone was begging for him to go harder, but things kept a pretty even page until the end of the show.
Right at the very end of his set, the openers all came out and threw unrequested sloshes of water into the audience, which were met with sloshes of water right back at them, getting a healthy dose all over Carmack and his equipment. Given that it might have been damaged, after his finale of hard trap bangers and even a dubstep tune, Carmack gave away his Native Instruments Traktor S4 to the crowd, thought it was eventually passed back before he said goodnight and left the stage. The audience was clamoring for more, but the night was over as all the openers took selfies in front of the audience and the lights came on. I had a good time, and I think everyone else did too, but it certainly wasn’t an outstanding performance. Mr. Carmack is still one of my favorite producers, and I would love to see him again sometime, though perhaps with a bit more organization to the set.
Photos by Megan Friddle for Bullet Music.