Zeds Dead was just a couple weeks into their fall tour when they rolled through Urbana this Monday and Tuesday for a pair of sold out shows at the Canopy Club. I caught the show on Tuesday night. With their debut LP, Northern Lights, dropping this Friday, the electronic duo has generated some media hype, although I’m not sure their fans care. For Zed heads, being at the show is the ultimate, and releases don’t matter as much. In the line for the bathroom during set break, strangers giddily share of their best EDM stories, among other things, and reach a consensus that everyone should go to a show at least once, and then they would get it. “The bass changed my life” one fan evangelized.
Zed’s Dead consists of DC and Hooks, two Toronto producers who cut their teeth in the mid/late naughts as regulars on the Toronto club scene. In 2009 the pair joined forces to form Zed’s Dead, just as EDM artists like Bassnectar were taking over the music festival circuit. From there the genre took off like wildfire with Skrillex winning a Grammy, and now producers have claimed their place in the spotlight across hip hop, pop, and dance music. Zeds Dead have stayed on top of that wave, earning a massive following and bigger and bigger bookings on the festival circuit. At this point they seem to be on the verge of crossing over into mainstream success, and with their debut LP featuring appearances by Weezer’s River Cuomo, Pusha T, Twin Shadow, Jadakiss and several more, they might have their eyes on scoring a radio hit. Based on the legion of frat-boy types singing along with every word at Tuesday’s show, they might be well on their way.
The pit was flanked by these bros, but inside it was a more diverse crowd of fans, many who travelled hours for the show, and every single person was going completely buck. It was very sweaty and crowded, but everyone moved together like a school of fish. Resigning any notion of personal space, once you’ve entered the flow of the crowd the chest pounding bass, grating womps and wubs, and LED fortress on stage truly are an experience to behold. The breakdowns, buildups, glitches, drops, strobing lights, 3D graphics all play on your innate physiological responses, like a roller coaster or a haunted house. Zeds Dead’s set seemed to move linearly through different genres – starting with wompy dubstep over a halftime beat for awhile, moving to melodic house music over four-on-the-floor beats, and later into a blistering set of very fast drum-n-bass breakbeats.
After awhile I climbed to the balcony to give my legs some refuge in a chair. There I saw people getting bottle service in Canopy Club’s new VIP section, something I’ve never seen in my ten years of going out to clubs and bars in Champaign-Urbana. Call me crazy but I don’t think velvet ropes really fit the Canopy Club’s vibe, but then again I’m perhaps not the target market for bottle service. I rested for a little while but just long enough because compared to being in the pit the balcony just seemed muted. That also may have been due to temporary hearing loss. Either way, I went back into the pit for more. The lights on stage turned green as they went into a reggae break down, reminding me where the dub in dubstep comes from. Building up this reggae section with enormously fat bass, they brought the biggest payoff of the night (for me) when they dropped it into the aforementioned blistering breakbeats. The fog cannons blasted, and a cloud floated above the pit, lit green by the towers of lights on stage. In my section of the pit everyone was going completely crazy. It looked like a depraved Tae Bo class with head banging. I took as much as I could before I had to duck out early for work at eight this morning. Another scorcher in the books.
Check out the full set of photos by Tyler Courtney below.