Fatboy Slim@Austin Music Hall

Phases and Stages
Photo By John Anderson

Fatboy Slim@Austin Music Hall

March 21 With a federal crackdown on rave and DJ culture having occurred throughout the U.S. since his last visit to the capital city, it's a wonder that the Austin Music Hall chose once again to book big beat legend stormin' Norman Cook in the first place. That the show went off without a hitch hopefully indicates the return of large-scale DJ events in the future. That much, at least, was evidenced by the awed reaction to opener and local Merrick Brown, whose Texture residency is becoming as much a staple of the Austin scene as Herb Agapetus' once was. Thursday night's opening set by Brown -- heavy on the house-y beats, with enough breaks to load the faceless groove with something approaching character -- had the AMH throng's attention, something about as common for the opening-slot DJ as a post-gig paycheck. Spinning from an oval-shaped staging area in the center of the venue's floor (a Fatboy Slim preference apparently), Brown ushered in Brighton's finest amidst an arpeggiated flurry of beats. For his part, Slim's a grandstander of the first order, forever egging on the crowd with arms raised and a perpetual grin plastered to his face. Clad in cheesy, Hawaiian print shirts, he resembles nothing so much as your dotty uncle after a few too many. It's not the man, though, it's the music, of course, and from his opening big beat broadside of Kid Crème's "Austin's Song" -- into which he dropped Eighties popsters Hall & Oates' "Say No Go" (formerly a De La Soul fave) -- to the myriad Seventies references that kept cropping up throughout the 90-minute set, it was clear that Cook will forever be a child not of da funk, but of goofball Seventies theatrics. What can you say about a DJ who builds an entire groove around that most tepid of teenage ballads, Kansas' "Dust in the Wind?" Or that he manages to restructure snippets of Rush's 2112 into a fully functioning groove armada? Social engineering of this sonic sort is a rare pleasure, and the fact that it's being done by this balding Brighton bloke is just icing on the acoustical cake. It's true: Fatboy Slim is fucking in heaven.

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