Concert Review: Wolfgang Gartner at Mansion, December 12

Categories: Concert Review
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Photo by Sarah Tyler
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I went to Mansion on Saturday night in order to find out what's happened to electro house. This energetic style, blended with equal parts electro and indie dance rock, exploded on the international scene in 2006 but lost most of its edge within two years; it was seemingly extinguished by the same intensity that made it exciting to begin with.

So I went to Mansion to find out whether Wolfgang Gartner, one of the most talented and forward-thinking exponents of electro house, could rock the South Beach venue hard enough to make me forget that I was paying $9 for a beer.

As soon as you enter club Mansion you make your way through this antechamber where Top 40 hip-hop plays all night, at times competing and interfering with the sound system in the main room, where the EDM DJs preside.
Saturday's opening set by DJ Laurent Simeca exemplified the style of upbeat trance-infused commercial house that has become ubiquitous in South Beach and popular big-room nightclubs around the world. Lots of epic buildups, sweeping breakdowns and trite melodic motifs, like in a trancey remix of "New Year's Day" by U2, the patron saints of cheesy anthemic music.

Gartner came on around 2 a.m. and took no time in getting down to business with an energetic first half hour of percussive funked-up techno and new electro house.

But the more he played, the more he began to enter into unacceptably spoiled territory. Originals like his opulent, quasi-comical fidget remix of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 or "Yin" (with Francis Preve) -- an intense and infectious acid techno number -- hinted at the slick production skills and groove mastery that have made Gartner an undeniable force in EDM. But when he got around to playing his remix of the insipid "Heartbreaker" by MSTRKRFT and John Legend, it pretty much confirmed the fact that like most of the "it" producers that made electro house big a couple years back, Gartner has jumped on the commercial bandwagon.

More than any other electro house hit of 2009, that track seems to illustrate how electro house went wrong and got sold out to the Top 40 mainstream, thereby squandering its own innovative potential.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I'm never going to quit reiterating the superiority of cutting-edge underground dance music over the Beatport top 100 shit.

Random Detail: The only people really dancing at Mansion on Saturday night were the girls that get paid to do so.

By the Way: Fedde le Grand, another big name in electro house, is booked to play at Mansion on Saturday, December 19.   
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