A night of future/past
Dance music and pretty lights at Off Limits
For one used to seeing the Off Limits as a sort of no-frills, utilitarian venue in which to enjoy the music of the eclectic parade of local and touring low-budget rock bands that has graced its corner stage over the past year or so, the bar’s transformation into a pleasantly eerie, red-lit oceanic tableau visually anchored by a high tech, dual turntable DJ set up was a pleasant surprise.
Columns wrapped in tiny red lights led up to a ceiling festooned with a constellation of pearlescent tropical fish and vinyl record albums shimmering and casting gently spinning reflections from a few colored spotlights and a disco ball. On one side of the dance floor, a large-screen video projector pulsed with multi-colored, abstract digital imagery. The place looked, to slip into the antiquated vernacular of a bygone era, trippy.
The scene was reminiscent of the parties that filled the former Zocalo Room and the old Masonic Temple downtown with ecstatic dancers in the raving days of the late ‘90s, when pulsating sound and light systems and pre-Red Bull forms of stimulating concoctions would keep a throng of happily energized youth shimmying and writhing from late in the evening till early the next day. It was a scene, in other words, primed to evoke a sort of hopeful nostalgia and perhaps to reignite the magic of those legendary parties of yore.
No matter how you looked at it, the setting provided a fun place to have a couple of drinks with your friends and dance to some good music from a good sound system.
DJ Hjalmar Hake, who will perform his own electronic compositions under the name Holger Honda at the Dec. 2 party at the same venue, started things off by spinning some fairly mellow electronic grooves centered on the pulse of synthesized bass and drum patterns, seamlessly mixing tracks and adding layers of beats and shifting dynamics that drew a few dancers onto the floor and had the rest of us tapping out polyrhythms on the edges of our tables and barstools. Hjalmar, thin as any ascetic fasting on a pillar in the desert, and focused with laser-like concentration on the task of conveying the energy of music from turntable to dance floor, is the antithesis of a performing entertainer, but the intensity of his efforts is no less evident than that of some guy grimacing and grueling away on the neck of a guitar. One senses the sincerity of his intent to construct the perfect dance groove.
Following Hjalmar’s set, DJ Shawn took over behind the decks and boosted the volume and energy levels a bit, spinning a mix of more familiar dance tunes and highly energized rave music that occasionally had a tremendous amount of treble volume and not enough kicking bass in the mix to soften the piercing high tones. Shawn’s behind-the-decks dance moves and smiling interaction with the crowd built the dance floor crowd up and kept many there throughout his set.
An interim DJ whom Hake, when asked, referred to as “Should be Matt Loomis,” played a short set of eclectic tunes ranging from James Brown to Lou Reed to Barry White to Parliament, the highlight being Bootsy Collins’ mindwarping, butt-shaking bass on the classic “Flashlight.”
Matt Loomis, hip-hop connoisseur and turntablist supreme, took over the decks at about 1 a.m. and spun and scratched a set that coaxed a few former sideline sitters to the floor and graphically demonstrated that the discordant products of our fragmented culture can still be integrated, if nowhere else, on the floor that we dance on.