A-Trak at Outside Lands: Shouting-Out Fellow Festival Acts, to the Crowd's Delight
By DANIEL LEVIN BECKER
Christopher Victorio The Outside Lands masses on Sunday
The high point of A-Trak's late-afternoon set Sunday at Outside Lands came at the very end, when, after exactly fifty minutes of 3/4-throttle party collage and stutterstep turntablism, he beheaded Karen O. (Poetic license! Everyone is fine!) He had worked Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Heads Will Roll" into the lather of things about 20 minutes earlier, and now, as everything else tapered away, he reintroduced the first word only -- "off," as in "off with your head" -- initially as just another pulsing rhythmic sound, then slower and slower until its source became obvious. Then he scratched the shit out of it, Bay Area-style. (A-Trak was an honorary member of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, I'll have you know.)
A-Trak made similar work of plenty of other songs too, obviously, because that's what he does -- "guys, I've thought about it at length and I've concluded that the only thing of genuine value I can add to 'New Slaves' is THIS AIRHORN" -- but the crowd's frisson of recognition when he mixed in Yeah Yeah Yeahs was perceptibly louder than it was for anything else. Except maybe when he mixed in Phoenix for a second, or when he played some of "Get Lucky." You see where I'm going with this: it was somehow most exciting to hear snatches of songs by bands at the same damn festival, songs we'd seen brought to life as recently as yesterday by real humans. (The emphasis here goes doubly for "Get Lucky," in that Nile Rodgers was on the bill and Daft Punk was not.)
Of course, maybe A-Trak plays the same set at other festivals and the above overlaps were purely coincidental, and someone else will have a parallel experience in a month when they see him DJ the day after, say, Juicy J and Roscoe Dash. But does that diminish the effect, or make it even sweeter? Intentional or not, it was an unexpectedly refreshing kind of shout-out to a festivalmate -- better than, you know, Flea big-upping Fishbone -- plus a nod to the higher-reasoning capabilities of the audience, plus a pretty canny simulacrum of how easy it is to turn the things people make into something choppable, sample-ready, in-the-mix. Next stop is your song, your tweet, your T-shirt slogan, your food truck fusion gimmick. Intentional or not. We may as well embrace it, because it's only going to keep happening at shorter intervals.