Steve Aoki images by Bina Zafar; follow her on Instagram @13inakhan.
When I first was invited to attend a Steve Aoki show this past Thursday (February 15) at The Palladium in Worcester, I initially dragged my feet at the opportunity. Electronic dance music was never my thing. Between the sweaty, pulsating bodies crowding my space with flailing limbs and spastic muscle movements to the endless array of surging lights, I ultimately concluded that this wasn’t a setting I truly felt comfortable in.
I’ve gone to a few EDM shows in the past (most notably Zedd and Major Lazer) and though they were fun, I still felt slightly anxious when I was there. But seeing Aoki on a tour promoting his fourth album Kolony — released last July — on a bill with a slew of rising artists was, inevitably, a no brainer. To say the evening was stacked with impressive talent that would deliver would be an understatement.
From the contagious beats of Max Styler to the emphatic sets from Quix and Grandtheft, it seemed that DJs would unanimously reign the entire evening. But just as everyone was getting used to rhythms that were synthy and choppy, out came Desiigner who proved that hip-hop could and would take center stage. The emcee possessed energy just as manic and intense as his EDM counterparts; when Desiigner wasn’t bouncing around shirtless he was daring the audience to become just as frenzied as he was — a task in which they willfully obliged. From “Liife” to “Panda,” he more than properly prepped everyone in attendance for Aoki’s performance.
Kolony is a project that is saturated with rap from beginning to end and is Aoki’s most hip-hop-influenced album to date. With cameos from the likes of Gucci Mane, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, and 2 Chainz, Kolony isn’t just another Aoki EDM record as much as it is a bonafide party starter. And when it blasted through speakers in front of thousands of people at The Palladium, the result was one that was anticipated yet still nerve-racking: Those aforementioned sweaty bodies being jerked in ways that seemed almost antithetical to the music.
As Aoki crept from behind his DJ equipment early into his set, he welcomed this energy with open arms. He also thanked Worcester for being with him since his very first album (2012’s Wonderland) and insisted that this crowd was the definition of rowdy. Every jump, every hand clap, every instruction, and every bass drop that Aoki executed was perfectly timed and eagerly received. It didn’t take much for fans to have a good time — it’s the reason they came in the first place.
Follow Candace McDuffie on Instagram @cmcduffie1.