San Francisco Bath House
Friday, February 15
I had said earlier in the week that I was looking forward to this – because I’d liked DJ Yoda as a cut’n’paste compiler and for his production and Fabric.Live CDs. But to stand in front of his three-screen AV set, the screens showing videos that synched with the music, was to dizzyingly give over to 100 minutes of memes – it was a party-pill YouTube session with snippets of groove, sometimes tantalising, more often downright annoying.
I realised, walking home after, that I’ve seen this, in reduced half-hour TV format already. It’s on weekly and is called Tosh.0.
The gig was – in some sense – a revelation, because I did not know, until last night, that it is entirely plausible to love and loathe something at the very same time, to be intrigued and perplexed and for that to cause mini moments of euphoria in and around the furrowed brow. To stare at your shoes and wordlessly exhale air, mimicking a dud seal on a drink bottle.
A clip of a dressage horse cut-up so that both stuttering horse and shimmying rider were now the coolest hip-hop dancers around – not that competition from the floor was giving anything back at all – was one of several have-to-laugh meme-moments. But for all the flash-forward sprinklings of Back To The Future clips or Pulp Fiction’s main characters twisting away with Misirlou sliced and diced and draped on thick it was snide and gimmicky only, not winning, not crowd-pleasing in any work-for-it sense; it was lazy. It was futile. Often puerile. And though you can con yourself into admiring the skill involved, you realise pretty swiftly that that’s just the con rubbing off on you; you’re now working for the ruse, on its behalf.
I don’t need to go out to something like this to feel old – I have enough reminders around home; cruelly the mirror will do that job most days of the week. But there was something distressing, ultimately disappointing, that a cool – well-timed – layering of Stevie Wonder’s Master Blaster, replete with chopped-up video-clip, could meet with a stare of patience when Andy Samburg’s microwave-warming of lame Adam Sandler-styled song parodies could meet with not only applause but audience participation; actual singing, along with the daft joke-lyrics – amid the laughter.
There were moments – still – even an hour into what had fast become an ordeal where I admired where the groove was heading; more to the point was pleased it had showed back up. Fifteen kilograms lighter perhaps, after disappearing to some musical outback or wasteland, surviving – just – on its own piss. But these moments were skittish – and this celebration of scan-your-phone-quickly pop-culture rolodex-ing is ultimately so detached.
To have a crowd of people – many probably born right around when the song was recorded – singing along with false fervour and mock-passion as DJ Yoda coaxed and cajoled and faux-fawned to Whitney Houston’s rendition of I Will Always Love You isn’t clever. Particularly when you know he would have included this in the set long before Whitney took the longest bath ever – if it was a musical Too Soon moment it might have had something – but this was bog standard Irony 101. You know ironed-out irony that’s not really ironic. Just a chance to be goofy then argue afters that you weren’t being goofy really since you knew you were being goofy.
A young audience member asked me at one point if he could borrow my phone to send a text message. Many people had denied him as he searched for a phone with something approaching a form of frantic tension. I told him that he could not. “Why not?” he snapped, incredulously. “I don’t have to give a reason”,I said, not giving a reason. “I’m just watching the gig”, I added, while watching the gig.
“Why are you being a cunt?” He leaned in and all but screamed this in my face. “You are a cunt! You are a fat cunt! You are fat. And you are ugly! You are so ugly”. [It could be noted -as I guess it is here, now – that this chap was not the slimmer of the year, nor in any way particularly pretty, particularly on the inside from what I was gathering] “Why are you even here”, he continued, “you’re so ugly. And fat. You are a fat, ugly cunt”.
It was at this point that I realised he probably wanted to borrow my phone so he could send an all-important text message, something like, I just borrowed a phone from a fat ugly cunt so I could send this text saying I borrowed a phone to send a text from a fat ugly cunt.
This – most horrifyingly – is the DJ Yoda demographic. La De Frickin’ Da! (I don’t have three screens behind this review so you can see a video of Matt Foley saying that, but even then, that reference would just date me, right?) So I’ll just say a little prayer (secularly speaking) for humanity.
So to the walk home after. I realised that some things can be clever without being good. That something requiring skill does not mean it is actually clever. And that DJ Yoda, milking it by celebrating the absurdities of YouTube and the hollow centre of pop and hip-hop songs, played a set that was loved by many. And that I had been there too.