Icee Hot with Nina Kraviz, Rolando, Helix, and MikeQ
March 24, 2012
Better than: Last weekend's awful weather.
"BOO-BWELE-BOO-BWELE-BOO-BWELE-UH-HA! BOO-BWELE-BOO-BWELE-BOO-BWELE-UH-HA!" The immortal chant of Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy echoed through the room, shaking the sweat loose from the walls. In front of me, two drag queens in glittering couture strutted around like catwalk models. A lone voguer in a tartan vest formed obscure hieroglyphic shapes with his body in time to the beat's strobing attack. It was one a.m. on Sunday morning, and I was back at Public Works again.
The scene that was unfolding before me was almost entirely due to the DJ pyrotechnics of MikeQ. An upstart from New Jersey, he comes from the East Coast ballroom scene to spread the gospel of vogue to legions of bass music aficionados hungry for the next big thing. On my left, one such fan attempted to explain it to me, "This is the real deal, man. As low bit-rate as it is" -- one of the drag queens got on her back and started to bicycle her legs in the air -- "This is the last untapped resource of American dance music." -- a leggy girl in paisley tights lost her footing and bumped into me, sending Wild Turkey everywhere -- "It's an unbroken lineage and he knows it. This is house music." -- a group with fades and Supreme varsity jackets exchanged high-fives -- "I feel proud to be an American." Well, what do you think about Nina Kraviz? "Nina who?"
Last Saturday's Icee Hot was a special event. One of its biggest parties on record, the night featured no less than four headliners: Rolando (of "Jaguar" fame), Helix (a recently signed artist on Night Slugs), MikeQ (see above), and, lastly, Nina Kraviz (the Muscovite cult techno favorite). All substantial draws in their own right, together they were enough of a spectacle that they managed to pull a sizable crowd despite the heavy curtains of rain blanketing the city outside. I myself was drawn out of curiosity for Kraviz, whose reputation as a DJ seemed worthy of something beyond the low score I gave her debut LP in a recent review on XLR8R.
By the time I got around to seeing MikeQ, a lot had already happened. I'd arrived around 11 p.m. and had the luxury of watching the club fill up. It was slow going for a while, with most of the action concentrated in the OddJob loft. This might have been related to Rolando, who kept trying to push an unresponsive main room into the speedier realms of techno. New arrivals would poke their heads in before quickly turning to the staircase leading upstairs. There, the majority of the early crowd was warming up to the hectic sounds of resident DJ Shawn Reynaldo, who moved gracefully through a set of dancefloor-friendly bass and techno. Working the filters, he swooped into Zoltan's "Pluton," which was an early peak for the evening.
Shortly after, Helix emptied the room with a lifeless hour spent staring at his laptop. A local DJ encapsulated the moment: "I've been watching him all night, and he's never even looked up from his computer screen once. I hope he's having a lot of fun with himself. I mean, it's like a stink bomb up in here." Actually, a better description would've been a laxative -- the room cleared out in mere moments.
As a result, things began to fill up nicely downstairs. Rolando had eased off the hard techno and moved into more approachable mid-tempo fare. The dancefloor had grown to match this change, and the empty pockets were soon filled with a mixture of Public Works' built-in scene -- some adventurous hipsters, bass heads, and what I can only describe as Nina Kraviz fanatics. This last group only really manifested itself when Kraviz took the stage following "Jaguar," Rolando's last track. Members of the crowd seemed so beside themselves that it prompted a friend of mine to say "God, she hasn't even gone on yet and already people are screaming her name."
When she finally did go on, the room fell to an almost reverential silence. Wearing a stern expression, Kraviz blended into a straightforward four-to-the-floor minimal techno track. Letting it ride, it seemed for a moment that her set would follow in the footsteps of many other European techno artists that have graced Public Works. Not content to leave such an impression, she smirked, pulled out the bass, and began working the EQs like an old school Detroiter. This move began a long play with the audience; what began as a rudimentary techno set was now moving in waves and flows as she blended for minutes at a time and slammed tracks in and out of the soundscape.
Physically active behind the decks, Kraviz would periodically make poses and do karate chops in time to the synth stabs and snare hits. She has an infectious charisma and enthusiasm about what she's doing, and at one point things got so heated that she accidentally pulled the needle off a record as it was playing. A loud "awww" ricocheted through the room, but before anyone could stop dancing, she waited a four count and dropped it in right back on time to great effect.
Later, she received even more screams from her fans when she played "Ghetto Kraviz," her latest single. Beaming at the good response, she followed the mood by playing DJ Slugo's "Wouldn't You Like To Be a Hoe." She kept things going till well past last call, and even when I finally left around 3:30, there was still a large group working out.