April 22, 2008

D.J. Yahel: Music A Letdown, Party A Blast

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Attending D.J. Yahel’s performance at Barton Hall last Thursday was a strange combination of two groups of people: Those who were there for the rave and those who weren’t.
On the dance floor, it felt exactly like a rave — squished in the middle of 20 Jewish frat guys yelling “L’chaim!” (really?) and tossing their brothers into the air to crowd surf, it felt like Barton could have been some crazy Israeli dance club. Yahel’s beats certainly contributed — he played more club than trance, and strategically slipped in some Middle Eastern tracks into the mix. The eerie sounds of hymn-singing wafted over the thump of the bass and caused the eruption of full-on mosh pit behavior.
[img_assist|nid=30099|title=Paaartaay!|desc=When D.J. Yahel performed in Barton last Thursday night, many took it as a rare opportunity to go to a rave.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]Cornell Hillel, who sponsored the event to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday, purportedly supplied glowsticks to the crowd, while some eager ravers brought their own lights, spinning blue, green and red on the fringes to Yahel’s loops. I bumped and grinded, was told by a Jewish friend that it was a rave, not a frat party and spent the rest of the night esoterically dancing, trying not to get thrown over and contemplating multi-colored strobe lights pulsating on an Israeli flag. If you went there for a party, DJ Yahel was a good time —Thursday night’s concert definitely beat an iPod connected to laptop speakers.
Those who were there for the music, though, might have been disappointed. The sound system, to begin with, wasn’t up to par: Speakers good for playing varsity track work-out mixes didn’t mysteriously evolve into club-quality, and bumping up the volume didn’t help. The bass was overkill for a weaker treble — and they tell me it’s not a frat party! — and an inordinate amount of subtlety in this quiet D.J.’s music might have been lost. Yahel’s loops and beats were sometimes less than convincing on the lacking sound system, and his sole innovation seemed to be a mysterious touch of the Middle East — a mixture (maximum bass with strangely Asiatic loops) that, to give credit, was inspiring.
Regardless, in terms of dance-mixes, I’ve heard better at 18-and-over clubs. Yahel’s own performance was also lacking — people went into Barton expecting a concert, but when showtime came they watched the D.J. spin and scratch (rarely.) He didn’t have much appeal — none of the ecstasy-driven glamour that club D.J.s normally exude, or flashy charisma with which T-Pain’s spin-styler was dripping over — instead, he did a lot of pointing at the crowd and readjusting his headphones.
Did I believe it when they told me it was going to be a rave at Barton Hall? Not really. Was it? Criticisms aside, after three hours of watching people bump, jump, mosh, crowd surf and lose their minds in psychedelia while yelling “Israeeel!” — I would have to say: Given what Ithaca has to offer, yes.