In Defense of deadmau5: New Year's Eve At Nassau Coliseum

In Defense of deadmau5: New Year's Eve At Nassau Coliseum

by Danielle Desmond
01.06.2014

Either you love him or loathe him, but every electronic dance music zealot has an opinion on deadmau5, who has started off 2014 already making people move their lips. Joel Zimmerman and his deceased rodent alter-ego have always had a touch and go relationship with "EDM", a term he hates for the world of electronic music. He's looked at like an asshole because he likes to tell it how it is, but give him a chance and you'll see there is more to the guy under the mask.

"I told you I'd show up" he sneers cynically into the microphone, approximately seven minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve. It was a near private show at a very empty Nassau Coliseum on Long Island NY, a venue that can accommodate up to 18,000 ravers. My tickets placed me standing in the floor section and it was the best damn electronic music show I've been to in a long time > Insert Your Opinion Here < 

Zimmerman is sometimes dismissed as "mainstream" and lumped in with your average, overrated, commercial dance music DJ. Over the past few years, he's become a worldwide sensation for his incredible comprehension of sonic anatomy, but in part, simply because of his elusive moniker "deadmau5" (pronounced dead mouse) that has become as synonymous with dance music as it is to Zimmerman himself. He's not a DJ, he has never claimed to be a DJ. To quote MixMag: "With their massive light shows, perfectly synced sets and gimmicky props, it’s pretty easy to write off superstar artists as lazy millionaires who just press play." deadmau5 produces music – amazing music at that; music most people only dream about producing. When he plays a show, he plays his own music. He doesn't cater to anyone in particular, he does what the fuck he wants. 

Besides the dry arena, (read on), my only complaint was that I wish he played more than 90 minutes (to his defense, he was booked for 90 minutes at the the time tickets went on sale, although this information was not made public). Artists take a lot of heat from fans for things that go wrong and are often out of their control. Take for example being booked to play Mansion, one of the biggest bottle service clubs in Miami (READ: deadmau5 starts 2014 with huge rant about trust fund kids at his shows) and an alcohol ban at his NYE performance after already being announced.

The day before the 18+ event, ticket holders were informed that there would be no alcohol served at the NYE shebang - hmm doesn't this just promote more drug use? The producer himself wasn't behind the decision; Zimmerman points fingers at Live Nation. Although he sent out the following e-mail to ticket holders, the message itself was published as part of Coliseum Connection, the e-newsletter put together by the venue. Zimmerman had harsh words for the organizers of his show: "Live Nation thought it would be an AWESOME idea to put ME there,” he wrote. Zimmerman continued, “I was like, ‘Okay, event’s already announced? Uhhh shit… Can’t cancel it.’ Cancelling a NYE show is a kiss of death" he continues, “It’s frustrating being held back by some dude’s BS. It’s the event producers and promoters giving [people] something to hate that’s beyond my control.”

I may not agree with everything he says, but he has a point. If I were him, I wouldn't want to play clubs that cater to bottle service either. He's going to vocalize his opinion whether you like it or not. If no one ever says anything, nothing changes. The same thing happened to DJ Shadow when he played Mansion around the same time last year. There were too many people present who weren't there for the music and just there to be seen. Eventually DJ Shadow got kicked off because his music was "too futuristic" and he wasn't playing enough pop music. 

Fans need to be made aware that a lot goes on behind closed doors that has to do with management and booking, not the artist himself. “I fucking reamed out my agent for making me deal with that,” he wrote. “Putting fans in the back and trust fund kids up front is fucking stupid as fuck.” As a result, he “won’t be playing any more Miami clubs.” Instead, Zimmerman said, “I’d rather rent a venue / parking lot / beachfront and fuckin’ do it right.”

NYE at Nassau was not an 'unhooked' show like his performance the following day at Mansion. deadmau5 'unhooked' is a term used for his freestyle sets, creating sounds and samples on the spot. There’s no LED Mau5cube, no LED Mau5head. It’s just deadmau5 with his equipment, nothing else. While I love seeing artists just there to do their thang, Zimmerman's "hooked" show was artistic and well-produced. The visuals were as intricate as his musical compositions and he put on one of the best performances I have seen from him. He interacted with the audience throughout the show, asking us questions, making snide comments, and making us feel like we weren't just witnessing a guy up there pushing buttons.  

There was a delay in the midnight balloon drop, which Zimmerman described as "extremely underwhemling," followed by "fuck it, let's play some music." He opened with "777"  which was absolutely magical as the balloons floated about the crowd and happy thoughts filled my head, as if I was in my own balloon myself. During the course of his set, he played some of his newer, unreleased music like "Drop the PopTart" as well as the usuals, a mixture of his albums 4x4=12 and > Album Title Goes Here < "Cthulu Sleeps" into "Your Ad Here", "Some Chords", "Suckfest9001", "Right This Second"….songs that I get something different out of every time I hear them whether I was looking for it or not. If it feels right, you shouldn't question it. 

You know his set is coming to an end when he drops "Strobe". Even if you're not the biggest fan of deadmau5, "Strobe" is one of the most perfect melodies in electronic dance music ever. Hearing it live can only be described as sex for your ears. When a song's feeling can only be described as a basic human desire, that, is great music. But put as simply as possible, "Strobe" takes you to a place where you just appreciate everything that's happened to you and forget all the bad that's ever happened, but however you relate to it, it's beautiful. 

People lose focus of what is important and get confined to how they think music 'should' be rather than understanding that music is an arrangement of sounds combined in such a way to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression of emotion. Music is subjective; you decide if its aesthetically pleasing. To pigeonhole music by classifying it into genres and then "hate" an artist because he's "progressive house" etc. is ignorant. Enjoy the music and let the talent speak for itself. 

Joel saved the best for last as a dessert course for the loyal fans that came out to ring in the New Year with him. The audience was bewildered by the unexpected funk that filled the room and went nuts. The original deadmau5 track is called "Seeya Next Tuesday" and is currently unreleased. Below is a video taken from the show. It's the only snip it of the track we could find for you. 


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