Two track-making DJs of very dissimilar voice, Ramon Tapia and Anthony Attalla, dropped 75 minute sets each at Boston’s Bijou NightClub on Friday night. It was Tapia’s first local performance since 2010, when he rocked the now-shuttered Therapy in Providence; many scenesters and house music connoisseurs came to see Tapia reshape his well-regarded hits — “Intense Idea,” “Y Not,” “Wonderland,” and “Freedom,” his number one download at Beatport.com. As for Attalla, he has played frequently in various Boston dance-music clubs; and though he too has a large repertoire of produced tracks, it is his live mix work, not the tracks, that people come to see.
It played out exactly thus at Bijou. Attalla played many of his tracks — rough, racy, abrasive and energetic things — in loud big, boot stomp mode. He shoved his entire body into his mixes, almost as if he were doing push-ups. He leaned into the board’s knobs, bobbed his head, clenched fists at them, like a boxer in the ring. Using no PC — nor did Tapia — Attalla spliced two CDs into Bijou’s fully-arrayed mixer, set the boom, clang, and bamm going, let it ride; pushed the pitch now and then. At first that was all that he did, but before long he cranked the soundboard hard, and from that point on dropped big, scary truck beats onto the dance floor, one upon another with voice grins tooled atop — and in and out, like dancers stepping and jumping from spotlight to dark mists.
Attalla put his stomp noise into full locomotive shape and kept it there with some of dance music’s current talk drops — “there’s whores in this house” made its second appearance in as many Fridays — normalizing what was a very loud sound, an almost solid brick of it. Waving his arms in the air, punching at the music, Attalla was his own go-go dancer. But one with enough grace to feature, toward the end of his set, a Ramon Tapia track, “Intense Idea,’ which might well have been written with Attalla in mind.
Then it was Tapia’s turn. In no time at all his soft, smoove sound put melody into service, and an interplay of beat and percussion that changed Attalla’s single-minded music of rant into a music of conversation, of two people or more than two. Tapia stood supple at the mix board, fingering the knobs but not attacking them. Into the mix he ran “Wonderland” and tracks similar, and then his own version of “Intense Idea,” more complicated than Attalla’s single-minded streak. This was followed by a soulful, uprising, melodic track onto which came a vocal climax. It was the entire evening’s sublimest song.
Attalla’s set featured very few pauses or bridges made of mix twists. Tapia, however, filtered many such twist bridges into his set, and all felt just right as he sculpted them. For the first two-thirds of his 75 minutes, Tapia had Bijou’s dancers swaying and swooning.
Curiously, though, Tapia had not played “Y Not,” perhaps his most soulful track, and, as he began the last third of his set, he missed a beat cue, flubbed a segue, and lost the handle of his tuneful smoothing. Inexplicable were the next ten minutes of his performance; but, as the end point of his time grew near, he recovered himself. The sound now was purely house music, and blues that seemed to apologize to itself. Tapia ended strongly, playing his top hit “Freedom” almost as a sigh of relief that he had escaped his own misstep. The Bijou dancers cheered, and many ran to get their pictures taken embracing a sweat-browed Tapia.
Wil Trahan opened in his usually commanding manner. Like the DJs of old, Trahan chases down tracks that no one knows but which, once heard, everybody wants to have. With tracks like that in hand — best was FCL’s “It’s You” — it’s easy to dominate a statement. Trahan stated; and dominated.
—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music