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Five-time World Champion DJ A-Trak (aka Alain Macklovitch) graced the stage at the Hub last Friday night.
The skilled turntablist began with a raunchy buildup giving the already hyped crowd (thanks to the opener, UCSB’s own DJ Ruthy Lopez) exactly what we’d been waiting for. His achievements, from prestigious awards to being recruited as “King” Kanye West’s personal tour DJ, still do not give A-Trak’s talent justice. Unlike many DJs who just play tracks, nod their heads and sway their hands in the air, A-Trak put those blessed hands of his to work. I quickly realized that he was anything but average. Watching him work his DJ equipment was comparable to watching Elton John work his piano. Song after song, he twisted and turned those knobs with such cool confidence, scratching up a storm, transforming each song into new works of art.
The enthusiastic crowd’s energy only amplified as he played remixes of crowd favorites from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll,” Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock,” Swedish House Mafia’s “Save the World” and “Look at Me Now” by Chris Brown. The crowd was on its toes, wondering what he’d play next. It could have been some beautifully remixed, embarrassing Miley Cyrus hit for all we knew, with how diverse his setlist was.
At one point, A-Trak began mixing a hip hop medley of sorts. All of the hands up swaying in the air with the recital of some of the summer’s biggest hip hop tracks were inevitable. I couldn’t control my laughter seeing some of the bros drunken attempts to express their “swag,” dusting the dirt off their shoulders and throwing up the Westside to A-Trak remixes of Waka Flocka Flame’s “Grove St. Party,” Travis Porter’s “Make It Rain,” Kanye’s “All of the Lights” and his very own “TrizzyTurnt Up.” Then our dearest A-Trak dropped a remix of Jay-Z & Kanye’s “[Brothers] in Paris” and the crowd erupted in a simultaneous chant of “that s**t crazy!” As perfect as that moment was, the night only got better. Why? Two words: Duck Sauce.
Duck Sauce is the musical duo of A-Trak and Armand Van Helden under A-Trak’s very own record label, Fool’s Gold. They have given our ears some of the catchiest, most alluring disco house songs of the decade. Bad, pitchy vocals ensued as the crowd sang “Time after time, I told myself, I’ve got nothing to lose” to Duck Sauce’s “aNYway.” They only worsened when A-Trak scritched and scratched to “Big Bad Wolf” and smash hit “Barbra Streisand.” I even found myself, a self-proclaimed dog hater, howling and shrilling “oooh” to the songs. A few fearless hooligans climbed onto the high beams fist-pumping in triumph as the crowd cheered on. It was definitely a defining moment.
Throughout A-Trak’s nearly two hour set, there was never a moment of rest. It went by in a flash, and after masterfully mixing a classic track, “Good Times” by Chic, he just exited. We decided it wasn’t going to go down like that. We, the crowd, chanted his name repeatedly for all of two minutes and just when we thought he’d abandoned us, my prince emerged from the shadows. For his encore, A-Trak played a DJ Mehdi track as a bittersweet tribute to his close friend Mehdi, who died in an accident last month. People continued to sway and gyrate to the music, but it was surely a somber moment.
A-Trak just goes to show that a little goes a long way when you actually have talent. He didn’t need a crazy, blinding lightshow to make the performance great — just him and his chic leather jacket tweaking those knobs so sleek and effortlessly.