Decibel Review: Bonobo, DJ Shadow Command EDM’s Collective Consciousness

A stop at the Do-Over BBQ set the Decibel mood before hugely celebrated sets from two of EDM's most prominent names.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

CraveOnline kicked off the penultimate day of our Seattle experience covering Decibel Fest in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest with a powerful coffee experience over at Vivace on Capital Hill (if you haven't had it, you're badly missing out), before making our way over to the typically LA-based Do-Over event. Samplings of deep DJ culture commanded the energy of the grassy area outside Broadway Performance Hall (which had served as the festival's headquarters), and the party took on a powerful backyard-BBQ melting-pot vibe as all walks of life and genre appreciation made their way through, if only for curiosity's sake.

Seminars and lectures, workshops and interactive discussions for those looking to further immerse in the genre and industry had been peppered through the city during the day under the Decibel banner, centering on a variety of topics – from the future of record labels to starting your own business and beyond. As Seattle's EDM answer to SXSW, the production was as well-rounded in philosophy and networking opportunity as one might hope for.


After some serious delays before Nils Frahm's set (followed by Orcas) and a dip into The Showbox for a taste of Lucine, we wound up heading down to Showbox Sodo at the end of 1st Ave for some of the weekend's most hotly-anticipated sets, specifically from Simon Green – the British producer, composer, musician and DJ who's better known to the EDM world as Bonobo. 

His hour-long set of jazz, hip-hop, and soul infused beat designs was met with wild enthusiasm by the dub-dance addicts, who by the time 10pm rolled along were far beyond lost in the rhythm. Let it never be said that this generation of electronica fans hasn't set a precedent of full-immersion devotion to the live performance, whether chemically aided or not. These people go the f*ck off.

Bonobo's quality precedent has been strongly set, but his transitions and beatmatching badly suffered as his set wore on, with several tracks simply grinding to a halt or shifting momentum on a dime. The impact was clear on the crowd, who were deeply enough attached to the flow and momentum of their live dance track that they were fully thrown off the tempo on several occasions.

Following just after midnight was DJ Shadow's headliner set, which was preceded by a line three blocks long down 1st Ave. was outstanding. Despite the unorthodox use of the mic to actually interact with the crowd during his set (god forbid, right?), the laptop-free performance was an exercise in exactly what makes Josh Davis such a key figure in the experimental EDM range. Now four decades deep in its evolution, the slow-burn development of the genre (and its army of subgenres) has been helped to an incredible degree by the few who achieve the status and credibility that Davis has.

Using drum sticks to generate beats, grinning widely and interacting freely with the crowd, DJ Shadow was clearly enjoying himself at Decibel hit its highest mark of intensity and passion in the entirety of its 2012 incarnation.

Photos: Johnny Firecloud