Let me tell you a little something about Red Bull; If ever you want to get a searing, unrelenting pain in the form of a mild stomach ulcer, definitely down three cans of that toxic coloured goodness chased by a mickey or two of cheap vodka. This is best done on an empty stomach and with little to no sleep. (Source: self-experimentation.) Obviously multimillion dollar beverage empires are not built on how healthy it is, and Red Bull by no means claims to be brewed from a fountain of youth and wellness. Instead, these types of enterprises are founded on aggressive marketing by way of selling you a life lived on a the edge, taken to the raw extremes of human possibility and sprinkled with all the glory and fame that it comes with, all contained within that silver and blue can, waiting to be unleashed whenever you pop that tab. And boy, was that tab ever popped on Wednesday night.
A sold out event with countless people lining up in vain hope of scoring a ticket, the Virgin Mobile Mod Club on College St. West was packed to the brim by 9:30pm in anticipation of the second night of The Red Bull Thre3style World DJ Championships semi-finals. The competing countries were Romania, Croatia, Germany and Japan and each country’s flag was displayed proudly in the din of neon lights. 2011 and 2012 world champions DJ Hedspin and Four Color Zack did a dope set reminiscent of Tuesday night, this time incorporating a remixed clip of Rob Ford’s crack confession. Toronto represent, right? The crowd was receptive as always and although it started off with a few meagre heads bopping to the beat, by the time 10:30 rolled around a good number of people were liquored up enough to be full-on dancing.
The competition started with DJ Undoo from Romania, whose set began with promising beats and a voice clip giving him acclaim to boot, although it didn’t entirely live up to the promise. I don’t think Undoo is necessarily a bad DJ, but stage presence was definitely lacking and the tempo never increased from the steady pumping that it began with. Not all that in terms of creativity either; a few of his chosen tracks were played without any sort of remixing, without any finger magic on the turntable. We Are Friends by Justice was one such song. I recall that at the last Justice concert I had attended, they themselves were more creative with reinventing their own single. Alas, the possibility of getting in finals for Undoo was dim.
Next up was DJ Oli Doboli from Croatia, who was an obvious step up from his previous contender. Starting off with a voice clip proclaiming what a talent he was, the set he produced did not disappoint. Setting Ginuwine up against bass-ic Skrillex, sampling Dream Warriors with significant emphasis on the Quicy Jones track in the background, some drum and bass in between and ending off with Bob Marley before closing it the way he began with (a little bit of Nina Simone to tenderly transition into the screaming applause that came thereafter). If the bar was not previously set, it certainly was this time round.
But then came DJ Shintaro representing Japan, and that bar might as well have never been set. Starting off with his signature Mario theme song and transitioning flawlessly to some Technologic by Daft Punk, everyone was pumped up from the very get go. Fast and heavy bass is a sure way to a dancing audience’s soul, and this DJ knew only too well. Keeping the tempo with some Dizzee Rascal, then slowing it with some Destiny’s Child from more than a decade ago, through to a verbal interlude reminding us that we’re listening to DJ Shintaro, then over to some Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, finishing off with some Kanye and Talib Kweli’s Get ‘Em High, then closing it off nicely with more of his signature Mario tune. The crowd was ecstatic, and rightfully so. Japan’s representative showed creativity and talent, both with spinning and with the soundboard. At this point it was up to Germany to bring it and bring it good.
Man, was it ever brought. I’ll admit, at first I thought that DJ ESKEI83 was a little generic. Despite my soft spot for Western Europe and the crowd’s eager cheers, I felt as though he didn’t do anything daring or different. Lots of fast-paced beats with Biggie, Drake and Eye of the Tiger (the Survivor version, not Katy Perry) is almost like a cheat code for getting the audience uplifted and on your side, and everyone knows it. I felt like I had heard it a million times before and wasn’t impressed. But then he broke out of that slumber. Major Lazer to Bee Gees to Skrillex and looping back to LL Cool J, although not the most daring thing he could have attempted, had the crowd going and more than one wasted fan screaming out “YEAHHH DEUSTCHLAND!!” I warmed up to him, and eventually had my heart melted completely. Anyone who can juxtapose Birdman with The Cure like that could do strange things to my psyche. He gave us some Jay-Z, then some Kanye in the form of Mercy, and near the end had some Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild. He closed off appropriately with some Sinatra, serenading us with “the end is here, and so I face the final curtain.” You can’t say he’s not clever, and you can’t say he’s not good. But was he clever and good enough to trump DJ Shintaro?
Yes, yes he was. This time. The judges must’ve had their work cut out for them trying to decide on a winner. Wednesday night had DJ ESKEI83 take home the title, but as we find out 4 days later during the finals, that whole saying about winning the battle but losing the war couldn’t have been more appropriate here.