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"If Saturday night you came to Opera expecting Jamie Jones to give a deeper melodic tech house set, you were in for a bit of a surprise. Maybe it was because of the venue or maybe it was because the next morning Jones would be flying out to perform at EDC Orlando, but his two-hour set, although extremely enjoyable, had some interesting build-ups and drops that almost walked into EDM territory.
Jamie Jones was brought to Atlanta this time around through Liquified, which has been booking major acts in Atlanta for over 25 years and working with Opera for almost ten years. However, most tech and house heads have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the venue. Their website describes it as “being styled after a historic opera house with vaulted ceilings and beautiful chandeliers,” but most of us in the underground music scene would rather be in an industrial warehouse space like Jungle aka Expand Warehouse or an intimate dark space like Music Room or Sound Table over on Edgewood - we don’t want a dress code and bottle service, we want a killer sound system and a party that goes past 3:00 a.m.
Part of the conundrum of booking a techno legend at Opera is that the club hosts Illuminate Fridays, the “largest weekly 18+ electronic dance party in the Southeast,” with bookings that tend to attract more of an EDM crowd that loves flashing lights and wears furry boots. It’s no secret that techno/house and EDM have a rocky relationship. Many underground DJs are constantly criticizing mainstream DJs such as Steve Aoki and Afrojack for being more interested in throwing a flashy party than playing a dynamic set; it’s interesting to note that last year Jones went on to defend EDM in an interview with Beatport where he said, “I think discriminating against any event that’s making people party for two hours listening to any DJ even if they’re throwing cakes or whatever, people are having a good time . . . it’s just a party.”
The night began with a heavy set by Luis Valencia who’s been playing in the Atlanta scene for almost 20 years. Valencia, who also opened up for Sasha in October, tends to have a bit of a darker sound and plays with more industrial vibes; however, when I talked to him about his style, he went on to explain that “music shouldn’t be categorized... it’s either good or it’s bad.” Throughout the night I kept that in mind as I found myself trying to analyze Jones’ sound. Valencia began opening around 10:00 p.m., and when I came in at 11:30 p.m. the dance floor was already in swing, though not quite packed yet. By the time Jones came on at 12:45 a.m. people were sweaty and moving non-stop.
I spoke to Jones briefly before he came on and he said he’d let me know what he thought of the Atlanta crowd after his set. He arrived Friday afternoon, and when he came in to prepare for his set he seemed excited to give us a good party. I spent the next two hours dancing around bouncing from one place to another enjoying an eclectic array of sounds. The Pure Groove Sound System was so smooth that despite being next to the speakers most of the night, I felt no need for earplugs.
Without a doubt Jones came to make us dance – it’s easy to see why he was voted #1 DJ in the RA Poll of Top DJs of 2011. His sound was certainly playful, but after falling in love with a set he played back to back with Joseph Capriati for a Paradise party last year, I was hoping to hear a similar tribal and soulful sound that made my hips groove and wind. A friend of mine said he’s heard Jones play six times and every time he’s had a different sound, so maybe the pull of Jones is that you never really know what you’re going to get. Although there were times he did get into some hypnotic drum sounds that made me think I was on the beaches of Ibiza, he seemed to be playing to the Opera crowd that loves its’ EDM Fridays. Perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the night, though, was his use of The Beatles’ Come Together. When I heard it, my ears fell in love. At that moment I began to understand Valencia’s comment on not categorizing music - if there’s only good and bad, that was fucking amazing.
Another highlight of the night was the insane visuals. It’s easy for LED light production to become cheesy, but the screen behind Jones was trippy and alluring. Someone described the visuals as reminiscent of a 1920’s smut film on acid. When the show came to a close, I felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment that the set had to end at 2:45 a.m. As people shuffled out, Jones was friendly enough to take a moment to snap pictures with a couple of fans. When I asked him what he thought about the Atlanta crowd, he said that without a doubt he’d love to come back and play for us. Unfortunately, since he would be flying out at 11:00 a.m. the next morning he didn’t have time for a full interview, but it was cool to know that he vibed with us and wasn’t put off by the crowd’s chanting of “Whoop There It Is.”
The Atlanta scene wasn’t done partying, though, so many of us made it over to Alley Cat for a banging after hours that went on almost until sunrise. Local Atlanta talent, Luis Valencia who opened up for Jones and Tocayo of Q/Q went back to back putting down a fantastic set that kept us bouncing. The attic was full to max capacity and everybody was moving in the dark room lit up by flashing red lights. Atlantans are unpredictable, but there’s one thing about us that is certain: if you give us good music, we’ll show you we came here to dance."
- Sofia Cano