There’s been much debate in recent times on the actual amount of skill it takes to throw down a killer DJ set. I’m not going to dive too much into this often heated and complex issue, but I will say that I think getting up in front of a stage of 50,000 and hitting play on a Beatport Top 10 festival bomb is very likely to evoke a positive crowd response. It’s somewhat like fishing with dynamite. However, playing to a packed, intimate room chock-full of deep house heads can often be much more of an art form, and more of a challenge. It’s less about easy track IDs, crowd-surfing, pastry throwing or other forms of carnival-esque debauchery. No, in this case, it’s all about the music. Claude VonStroke is one DJ who knows this very well. When you get the chance to witness him throw it down behind the decks at a small venue, his seasoned prowess shines through and you truly feel that you’re in the presence of a master of his trade.
This past Friday NYC party starters Verboten hosted Claude and his label mate, the adorable yet room-shaking J.Phlip, at a packed Highline Ballroom for a stop on his Urban Animal Fall Tour. The vibe was dark and deep and was fueled by earth-shattering bass and some of the most bizarre visuals ever seen, provided by Walking Dream. Like, seriously, who thinks of this stuff? Now to the music.
There are openers who just go through the motions and then there are those who perfectly set the tone of the night and get the party started in a way where you’re not even looking down at your watch to see where the hell the main act is. J.Phlip delivered a genre-bending and all-around awesome opening set for her label boss and held the crowd going strong ’til 2:30 a.m. With tracks ranging from the signature dirtybird “booty bass” to sultry deep house, some booming techy bombs to a small section of deep and grimy UK dubstep, J.Phlip kept the crowd engaged and in a raunchy state of mind. J.Phlip, if you’re reading this and are accepting applications for a boyfriend/personal assistant please message me. Your opening set captured not only my dancing feet, but my heart as well.
Once the clock struck 2:30 a.m., the always smiling dirtybird man himself, Claude VonStroke, finally appeared behind the decks. He would go on to deliver a set that was both tight and perfectly executed while at the same time surprising and creative. This is a DJ who knows how to keep a crowd in his clutches and takes them all the way to one depth of the rabbit hole before rapidly sending you out at the speed of a bullet train. Claude personifies the booty bass sound made famous by his label and dropped tracks filled with all sorts of grunts, groans, wacky animal noises, and of course the occasional “UH,” which you can hear in his breakout track The Whistler. What’s awesome about his sound is that it’s not held down by any conventional ties–it’s always changing and evolving; it’s always fresh.
Tracks like Lay It Down off his new album and tour namesake, Urban Animal, personified the type of upbeat creativity that you hear in a CVS set. Like a roller-coaster, the crowd swayed with his beats while always eventually being sent into a drop of body-shaking bass. Claude dropped some stellar tracks off his new album in addition to countless deep and tech house basslines that hypnotized the crowd into a state of mind where track IDs were the last things on the crowd’s mind. As the clock ticked into the wee hours of the morning, CVS periodically chilled out the vibe to the warmer spectra of deep house but only until he decided it was time to get the room shaking once again.
At the decks, Claude VonStroke was like a friendly professor. We, the fans, were his students, the booty bass his curriculum. He was there to educate, and educate he did. Never for me has learning been so enjoyable. Next time Claude’s in town, I know I’ll be at the front of the class shaking that thang.