N o v e m b e r   2 0 0 4

Aural Report

DJ Krush at Berbati's Pan
We've become our own DJs
by Kurt Dahlke

he mingle is mangled for DJ Krush down at Berbati's Pan. Frat boys and dreadlocks. Hip young Japanese kids taking Andy Warhol's awkward cool to a whole new level. B-girls and art geeks. Spinners.

Berbati's Pan: A good place for appreciators of the simple wiles of music.

Now that Phish has ended, the spinners have dispersed, and DJ culture is a good place for them to land. To wit: the grooves never stop. It's also a good place for other appreciators of the simple wiles of music – rhythmic wiles not suffering the warbles of Garcia and Weir.

However, the vast majority of this night's admirers at the longstanding Portland hotspot hardly dance at all, content to simply nod their heads to the beats while clutching drinks and cigarettes.

Not that I'm freakin', just noddin' and clutchin' – realizing that the whole notion of DJing hinges on disconnecting the left side of the brain. Don't analyze tons of reverb, just close your eyes and go. But, like meditation or any other transcendental experience (and the left-brain is often in need of being transcended), once you realize you've done it, you come crashing back to Earth.

On the Earth of the past, radio DJs used to play what they wanted, spinning what they liked and creating a feeling. Then payola and Clear Channel put an iron grip on things. Now the playlist of songs on radio stations I surf numbers in the low hundreds, while my MP3s (should I ever get off my ass and encode all my vinyl and CDs) number in the thousands. Since radio DJs aren't real anymore, we've become our own DJs.

Moreover, people will steal every MP3 they want and then pay to see a DJ mix live what they used to hear on the radio for free. The celebrity DJ (such as Krush – a man who crosses all boundaries) inhabits a unique role, actually, as deconstructor of the high-school geek's mix-tape, with skills. He blends bits from here, beats from there and discrete scratching with an unerring ear, emulating the deeply considered flow of an old mix tape.

Krush openers Alter Echo and ERS1 look like a couple northern California mountain boys, if you catch my drift. They calmly rock the beats. Nicely toasted 94 beats per minute. Seamless flows from one deep groove to the next. Punk frat and geek-boy monkey dance near the stage. Lovely, lovely.

But the advertised visuals, for all intents, are sad, washed-out colored shapes vaguely changing in dim projection on a sheet behind the band.

Who needs elaborate visuals when protecting a drink anyway?

The celebrity DJ: Krush is a man who crosses all borders.

Over on the other side of the room, nothing's changed. People getting their freak on, people working out the trapezius and the Rolling Rock muscle. But it's kind of weird; as the first pair minutes ago halted their turntables, piped-in, between-sets grooves fit the shoes perfectly, and no one really notices the difference.

At a live DJ show even the live DJ is expendable. The left brain recedes again, rendering who or what is DJing to a quibble.

The kick-drum reigns supreme.

DJ Krush tentatively walks out, perhaps displaying some Japanese reserve. He's dapper in fedora and brown polo shirt. A slight glance at the audience and it's right to work; pumping a free-jazz-horn-flight full of ether. Kettle-drum beats grip the feets, locking the spiritual to the earth. That's the way we might describe it through the "mystical Orient filter." Or we might say he tweaks the hard rock.

Krush's minimalist audio sculptures can't help but move the butt, Zen calm or no. For Krush, it seems reverb is king; that's what moves the spine. After a while it moves the spine to the other, oft-overlooked little bar in the back of Berbati's. Always tip your server well.

DJ Krush fans (and those who've seen Scratch) know Krush has real skills. But, for the most part, who can see them? Who can even hear them? Once in a while the visible top part of his hand starts moving in a funny way, but most of the time other manipulations – uninteresting to watch – generate aural delights.

Krush hunches over his turntables, half a set of earphones cradled under his ear, or he stands shuffling through a small case of records. Now and again he looks up, either sternly surveying the audience or, with a shy, slightly self-satisfied grin, seemingly seeking our approval.

Encore for a DJ: Just close your eyes and go.

Quitting time finally rolls around for those not willing to keep raving 'til 5 a.m. Krush flashes one last grin. Immediately, fans start chanting "Krush … Krush … Krush" to coax an encore. It's a scary chant at face value and the notion of an encore for a DJ strikes me as suspect. With a quick assessment of ill-advised discretion I dash for the door, reasoning that if Krush actually does an encore, my body won't take it.

Wrong again, I learn later, as Krush apparently provided a brief, triumphant ultimate mix of John Lennon and free jazz.

Hey, what are you gonna do?

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

site design / management / host: ae
© 2001-2005 nwdrizzle.com / all rights reserved.