Monday, January 23, 2012

Steve Aoki & Datsik at the Bill Graham Auditorium

I accompanied my 16 year old son and his friends to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium Saturday night to see Rockstar Energy Drink Presents Dim Mak's Deadmeat Tour featuring the young dubstep hotshot Datsik and superstar producer/DJ Steve Aoki. Crowd: 7000.

Okay, first of all I was one of the oldest people in the place. The kids all had a great time. Average age of the crowd: 17. Average girl's shorts length: micro-mini (not that I noticed). For boys in the target demographic, there's a lot to recommend about this concert.

I'm a big electronica fan, so I'm comfortable with the genre. Datsik had a strong set and tore up the joint. He was the reason my kids wanted to come; they didn't really know much about Aoki before tonight. I suspect a lot of the boys in the audience were brought in by Dasik, who plays a pretty industrial brand of dubstep.

The girls were there for Aoki and they went wild. For my money, his set was somewhat generic. I'm not into corporate-sponsored music, with tour sponsor Rockstar being a particular target of wrath, both for their connection to gaybasher/hatemonger Michael Savage and for just basically peddling addictive, caffeinated shit to young people. Largely absent was the spirituality and tribalism of a genuine rave. Aoki mainly set a tune spinning then got up and pranced around the stage like a rock star.

Aoki's schtick is spraying champagne and cake, which seemed kind of pointless to me. Is he trying to establish his punk bona fides? I guess I like my art to have a point. Color me picky. Years ago, raves eschewed cult-of-personality deification; they were all about the music and the tribal gathering. Raves were anti-establishment gatherings, often held in secret. How far we've come! (Fallen?)

I read somewhere that Aoki started out politically active. While at UC Santa Barbara he majored in women's studies and immersed himself in the punk scene. Somewhere along the way, he decided to let that go. Why? Perhaps that's a natural progression; Aoki is a 1%er from a world of 1%ers. His dad Rocky Aoki founded Benihana restaurants, his half sister is the supermodel Devon Aoki.

This concert felt like a well-oiled corporate machine. I was a bit put off that Aoki had a merch signing at 9, right in the middle of Dasik's set. The timing seemed pretty disrespectful toward his fellow artist. 

During the show, I and all 3 kids with me got separately approached and asked if we knew where to find "pills" (ecstasy). Although I'd prefer my son and his friends avoid such substances, I also want them to be safe. I warned my kids they should assume anyone asking like that is an undercover cop. Our toxic drug war and criminal justice system is far more dangerous to kids than any drugs.

Worst moment: After the show, we fought our way up to the front to quickly buy a couple of shirts then get in line to have them signed by Aoki (another signing). A particularly thuggish security goon named Rick (he tried to intimidate me when I asked his name) was yelling out, "IF YOU'RE GOING TO BUY SOMETHING, BUY IT! IF NOT, MOVE ON!" Then Rick yelled out, "HE WILL ONLY SIGN THINGS YOU BUY RIGHT NOW!" I explained that we were holding shirts we had just bought 30 seconds ago before we got in the signing line. Rick yelled again, "HE'S NOT SIGNING IT. HE'S ONLY SIGNING THINGS YOU BUY RIGHT NOW!"

So my son had to leave with his brand-new Aoki shirt unsigned. This abusive guard was yelling at all the kids ten feet away from Aoki and he never said a thing about it. Not a pleasant way to leave the show.

But all the beautiful kids had a good time, so I can't really complain too much. The high percentage of girls in attendance seemed to helped ensure all the boys pretty much behaved themselves. I never saw any unruly behavior or ill-treatment. 

Kudos to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for having water fountains on both sides of the hall. I assume they're required by law to have them (no doubt they eat into those $3/bottle water sales) but they make for a much safer and more pleasant concert experience for all the pacifier-sucking #MollyPills kids.

I dig Aoki's energy, and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. But I wish he held on to a bit of his early activism. He seems to have made peace with the establishment -- hell, he seems to BE the establishment -- and for an artist that's never a good thing.