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Bonobo Makes Last Stop in Chicago on North American DJ Tour

Bonobo live at Concord Music Hall on May 30th. Photo by Kelly Pyzik
I could feel the bass in my nosehairs.

Having recovered from the Datsik ceiling incident last year, Concord Music Hall still bravely releases the wubs to run wild. Bonobo and opening artists Nightmares on Wax, Striz and Vapor Eyes were all happy to give EDM bassheads the fix they were looking for during their show this past Saturday, May 30th.

Vapor Eyes was the first to warm up the room, spinning for more than two hours as the crowd began to fill in. His set was not personally my favorite, but he was really a character to watch up onstage. You could tell that he was really into what he was throwing down and did a lot to pump up the crowd without veering into hypeman-at-Ultra-in-a-wifebeater territory.
Nightmares on Wax making spooky sounds onstage. Photo by Kelly Pyzik
One of the nice things about the Concord is their three-tier choose your own adventure venue. Generally I find myself on the first level all up in the middle of it, feeding off everyone's energy, or on the edge of the mob where there's more room to throw my limbs around when I'm really feelin' it, but this time I found myself hanging back on the second and third levels, taking the opportunity to do a lot of fun people watching and let the vibes (and bass) roll all the way out to me. I know that my fresh-faced presence drew some good-hearted snickers from the thirty and forty-year-olds hanging out in the back – after all, I am “pff, barely 21!” as security reminded me at the door – but it was cool to see that people of a lot of different ages come out to concerts like Bonobo, too. The crowd was more mature and respectful than some, say, brostep shows, without losing the passion. A major shoutout goes to the dude with long curly hair who was dancing his freakin' heart out in the middle, front stage: You were my hero of the night.

Striz stepped up to the stage next, taking the energy Vapor Eyes had built in the room and tightening it up with some majorly jazzy saxophone melodies. His set was so smooth. More of the crowd started filtering down to the dancefloor and the couple next to me did some really sloppy samba, right into my shoulder, over and over – no shoutouts for them.

Nightmares on Wax set a spookier tone with their buzzy, haunted house voiceover intro, and played a jazzy but harder sound that worked as a really great complement to Striz while setting the stage well for Bonobo. By the time he came on, the crowd was totally pumped and ready, arms in the air and hips bouncing.

Now, if you <3 bass, this set was 100% for you. I could feel the beat in every inch of my body – it was a multisensory experience. Everyone was definitely feeling Bonobo frontstage. There were really great reaction screams every time he turned sound levels down real low and then dropped the bass back on the floor. However, what I mourned was the loss of all the intricate harmony lines weaving under the heaviest sounds. Having listened through his Flashlight EP especially, I missed the bubbly, fluttering layers of synth and vocals that I feel make his sound really unique. That said, this was a DJ set, not a full band show, and he definitely turned the place up.

As for now, Bonobo's headed back to the UK, but keep an eye open for more North American shows if you're looking for a skull-rattling, high energy good time.

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