Sasha & DigweedAustin Music Hall, May 23
First the bad news: either the show wasn't loud enough or I'm going deaf. Then there was NYC-based progressive house opener Jimmy Van M, mysteriously unlit on the AMH stage, which made the assembled near-sellout massive wonder if, in fact, there was
anyone up there. Such was not a problem for alternating Brits Sasha & Digweed tag-teaming their way through four hours of better-lit trance-y groove in a somewhat less spectacular fashion than at their recent Coachella Music & Arts Festival stop-off last month. Granted, no one at Thursday's Austin gig dropped from heatstroke, and few people suffered the sort of hellish allergy attacks that sidelined more than a few dancers at the horse-dust air of Palm Springs' polo grounds, but then again, tickets were upward of $40, a very steep price by local standards. On the plus side, Sasha and cohort John Digweed arrived with the undeniable superstar DJ panache that follows jet-setting beat-junkies such as themselves like stank on gabber. That the pair would ramp up such a visually arresting and vibrant evening is testament to why these two soft-spoken, self-confessed ordinary blokes have taken the international dance community by storm over the past few years. Once and future Ibiza kings and former standard bearers for NYC's late, lamented Twilo, they drew a capacity crowd that attracted various and sundry old-schoolers (i.e. clubbers over 18), and young pups decked out in enough Lycra to outfit the Village People's fan base. Digweed, the one whose face most clubbers know on sight courtesy of his turn in San Francisco club film Groove
, entered first, setting a tone that drew more on melody and darkly hypnotic grooves than on the outright party flavor of pal Sasha. With a style that's growing more and more ambiently orchestrated, huge, spiraling washes of sound cresting into sternum rattling tremblors, Digweed is for my tightfisted money one of the most emotional DJs ever heard. It's one thing to beatmatch vinyl for four hours straight and keep the crowd moving en masse, and an entirely different thing to make b-boys breaking in the corner stop what they're doing and allow their bad selves to be drawn into someone else's personal force field for a change. Sasha's relentless progressive housing about -- lots of breaks, as opposed to the Digger's epic grind -- made for a trippy, funky counterpoint. Still going when this elderly-by-clubbing-standards-and-far-too-jaded-for-his-own-good music geek wandered outside for some ChemiFog-free air roundabout 1am, it's easy to see why the American music press is calling this the British Invasion Redux.