A little before 2 a.m. at Brooklyn, NY’s House Of Yes, a sullen-looking guy in a plain black T-shirt approaches my friend enthusiastically but quickly backs off. I was only peripherally aware of what was happening; mostly I felt creeped out by the guy, who seemed to be hovering over our shoulders with a very serious expression. When he walked away, I wondered whether I should have been more friendly to the stranger, and my friend leaned in toward me to say, “That was Pearson Sound.”
Within 20 minutes Pearson Sound (aka Ramadanman aka David Kennedy) had assumed position behind the turntables at Mister Saturday Night‘s party at the House Of Yes with a similarly focused, businesslike demeanor. The transition from resident DJ Eamon Harkin to the night’s guest headliner would have been entirely imperceptible had it not been for one excited guy who climbed partway up a light fixture to express his enthusiasm (lots of arm waving and “woo”-ing) at the beginning of Kennedy’s set.
Said light-climber was not the only guy to display keen interest in Pearson Sound’s performance. As the DJ methodically selected tunes and tweaked the turntables in front of him, a ring of equally serious-looking young men grouped right where the dance floor met the booth to nod along and watch the Hessle Audio label boss do his thing. UNO tweeted the phrase “girls that like dance music” at Pearson Sound during his set, but the remark must have been tongue-in-cheek, as the crowd at Mister Saturday Night was a little more like an IRL incarnation of dubstepforum than an electro babeland.
The trainspotters were living proof that Ramadanman is the sort of artist who “drives casual fans crazy” and tends to attract an especially dedicated following of electronic music fans. They all probably could have identified the recent dance music world standouts in Saturday night’s set, like Floating Points‘ “Vacuum Boogie” and Nina Kraviz‘s “Ghetto Kraviz.” Pearson Sound made sure to plug several of Hessle Audio’s freshest cuts, like Objekt’s “Cactus” and Elgato’s “Zone,” but the most devastating tune in terms of audience reaction—Blawan’s “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage”—has yet to be officially released and only really exists for fans on the internet.
Kennedy’s taste has been well-documented and venerated through the curation of Hessle Audio, the label’s regular show on community radio dance staple Rinse FM, and his prophetic 2011 Essential Mix. Judging from the onlookers’ unwavering attention to the DJ’s movements behind the decks, many audience members were familiar with the basic components of a Pearson Sound set: dark and haunting bass, soulful U.K. garage, some juke-influenced, rapped-over, low-end bangers and some of the bassosphere’s most popular tunes du jour, like Jam City’s hyper flasher “How We Relate To The Body.”
Behind the cluster of rubbernecking fanboys (the DJ’s version of bra-throwing groupies) gathered the wiggling audience members who cared less about studying Pearson Sound’s every move and more about engaging in the hypersocial environment. Let’s face it: Without a nerdish devotion to the craft of DJing, even a forward-thinking rector of the underground like Pearson Sound isn’t much to watch—but there’s no love lost. The real stage at House Of Yes wasn’t so much the booth as the dance floor, where the energy is dictated by the DJ’s choice of sounds and loosey-goosey late-night weirdness is encouraged by fellow audience members.
Oh, and by the way, happy birthday, Ramadanman.