Twentysomethings don’t usually need an excuse to crowd the streets of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, on weekend nights, but this past weekend, they had one anyway. For two nights, the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival drew crowds, DJs and food trucks to the streets for a lineup peppered with EDM and IDM talent from Girl Unit, Four Tet and more. The festival took over several venues within a few blocks of each other in Williamsburg, making North 6th Street a highway for door lines and smoke breaks. The venues ranged from swampy and packed to comfortably warm with elbow room, and so the street was a convenient place to run into friends and take a brief respite from hot, noisy rooms.
During Matthew Dear‘s set on Friday night, Public Assembly’s main room became one such stuffy venue. With the smell of beer and sweat thick in the air, Matthew Dear cut through a sloppy set with a live band that included a guitarist, synth player and a person in some kind of full-body stocking or gorilla suit—it was hard to tell through the crowd. For whatever reason, Matthew Dear’s set sounded cacophonous and a little jarring or jumbled together. Although the band was dressed similarly in suits (although judging by these photos, Matthew Dear’s pants were leather and not suit pants), its members were not much in sync beyond that. But even if the sound wasn’t distinct, it was clear from across the venue that the leading man’s hair was coiffed to unmoving perfection.
Next door at the Cove, Cubic Zirconia‘s Nick Hook warmed up the crowd with hip-hop and R&B tracks before U.K. DJ Hudson Mohawke. By the time Hud Mo took over the booth, the Cove was a veritable sweat lodge—and the fake smoke the venue belched into the crowd at regular intervals only added to the swampiness. With Hook at his side, Hud Mo DJed to a crowd dazed by the pretty lights and thick smog, through which only the silhouette of a high-top fade could be distinguished. Up at the front, a wall of guys watched the DJ whip through rapid-fire rave tracks and a variety of high-energy beats that tended to favor drums over bass. The bros close to the booth were able to snag a look at the producer, who had dressed down for the occasion. In stark contrast to Matthew Dear, Hudson Mohawke cultivated a real bedroom producer look in a loose-fitting T-shirt with a picture of a gorilla on it. Bass-heavy hip-hop tracks, like a remix of Waka Flocka and Ludacris’ “Rich And Flexin’,” tended to elicit the most vigorous response from crowd members.
Beats In Space host and DJ Tim Sweeney found a middle ground between Matthew Dear’s formal aesthetic and Hudson Mohawke’s somewhat lazier appearance. In fact, Sweeney is the textbook picture of a DJ when he spins: He bobs from foot to foot, one headphone pinned to his ear by his shoulder and his hands hovering over his vinyl records. His Saturday night set in the loft at Public Assembly inspired a noticeable contingent of aggressively sexual dancers to do a lot of making out on the dancefloor, which is surefire evidence that Sweeney is a good DJ. Sweeney, always comfortable and natural on the decks, was able to chat with friends and fans who approached him to say hi while he bobbed his way through a disco-heavy set. Still, Sweeney found time to fit in blobs of midrange bass and tracks by (according to the “zip ‘n’ flip” bouncer near the bathroom lines) Jodeci.