HARD x Mouth Taped Shut, Chicago


text: Alex Gavin | photography: Isaac Joel Torres

It all hit the fan Friday night at the Congress when HARD and Mouth Taped Shut teamed up for an almost unannounced night of sweat and lasers.

Two of the heaviest hitters in the promotion game delivered a dynamic lineup of today’s most innovative producers and electronic artists, with performances by Proxy, the great Mr. James Murphy and Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso.

If you did a double take reading over that lineup, you aren’t alone. HARD x Mouth Taped Shut had their shit covered in terms of style and appeal, offering a little something for everyone’s taste in bass. From Proxy’s glitch beats that echo the bygone warehouses of USSR, to James Murphy’s mission of turning every venue he graces to an NYC disco hall, right on down to today’s heaviest Euro anthems from Sebastian Ingrosso, the night was a generous buffet of the who’s who in modern dance scene. And the kicker? It was all free.

Yup. Not a dime to get inside. In a promotion technique that could only be pulled off in the age of social media, HARD x Mouth Taped Shut announced the lineup a mere 48 hours before showtime. Utilizing their Twitter and Facebook channels, the two promoters opened up their RSVP list on a first come, first served basis. Now I am not a gung- ho capitalist, but I couldn’t help but ask myself: “How the hell are they able to do this for free?” I never got an answer, but the moment Proxy took the stage to drop the velvet hammer of Mother Russia, I immediately stopped caring.

The first thing you’ll notice when Proxy takes the stage is that he looks exactly like your best friend’s little brother. It is remarkable to consider the scope of his career after seeing him in the flesh, looking like he may ask for help with some Algebra II before he takes the stage. Although he is a twenty-something with the face of a teenager, Proxy is as hardened a veteran of the electronic scene as any of his senior techno colleagues. He has crafted his own electro genius niche with Mako Records, and his track selection is an eclectic mix of almost dogmatic beats.

If Putin, Stalin and Gorbachev had started a Moog band in the basement of Kremlin, it would come out sounding exactly like Proxy. You can’t help but become enraptured with his craft, and his Russian upbringing plays an influential role in the aesthetic makeup of his music.

The show took a sharp left with James Murphy, the venerable frontman of one of the 2000s most influential bands, LCD Soundsystem. The band itself is no longer in performing, but James has moved on to the eighth incarnation of his unrivaled career. He is now concentrating on producing records, DJing shows, and is slated to work with the Arcade Fire on their next album.

Mr. Murphy has his hands in a little bit of everything, including an upcoming Sundance documentary chronicling LCD’s swan song at Madison Square that is aptly titled Shut Up and Play the Hits. But you won’t find any LCD songs in Murphy’s set, not even a little bit. It almost seems like James is trying to distance his persona from the styles of LCD Soundsystem. It was not a time to revel in his past success, it was time to disco.

Mr. Murphy and DFA label have always infused a disco structure into the backbones of their records, but now that he is free to roam as a DJ, James has gone full tilt. Rifling through a crate of vinyl (the only performer of the evening to do so), Murphy showed the growing crowd why disco is far from dead.

James’ song selection was a sharp contrast to his impossibly casual demeanor, and there was no better example than noticing that he performs in his socks. I mean, come on. How cool is that? It’s just a quirky scenario to picture in your head. One of the greatest musicians of the present day is about to whip a throng of kids into a disco frenzy, but before all this goes down, let him take a moment to remove his shoes and get comfortable.

The night concluded with a performance from Sebastian Ingrosso, one third of electro’s darling Swedish House Mafia. Like James Murphy, Sebastian has enjoyed major crossover success in the music world. Swedish House Mafia is one of the biggest acts happening right now, and their hundreds of millions of YouTube views will testify to their universal popularity. Though Sebastian Ingrosso’s tunes have been associated with the world of fist-pumping bottle-service bros, it is hard to deny how infectious and inviting his music truly is.

Ingrosso was able to inject the crowd with some serious rumpus, and the night achieved its most electric point about halfway through his set. The stage was rigged with CO2 canisters that shot columns of white in coordination with the music, effectively shrinking the feel of the rather large Congress Theater. People packed it in up to the very front, and looking out it was impossible not to smile at the collective joy radiating from the crowd.

HARD x Mouth Taped Shut delivered one sick night of beats and debauchery, and what could have easily developed into a shit show turned out to be one of the highlights of Chicago scene in 2011. I still don’t know how they did it, but now more than ever, I simply do not care.

If you were at the Congress Hall this night check out our Facebook album for crowd shots!

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