Red Bull Thre3Style World Finals at the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday, December 17
Red Bull is a marketing monolith that understands its target demographic like no other purveyor of Day-Glo energy drinks, and better than most makers of liquid courage. From extreme sporting events like the downhill hockey-meets-roller derby of Crashed Ice and death-defying motocross stunts of No Limits, to competitions based on building flapping then flopping flying contraptions (hello Flugtag), the beverage giant hammers those in the 18-35 age group hard. The strategy is so effective, it’s little wonder the members of the drink’s target audience think they’ve got wings by the time they leave such events. The same held true at last night’s Red Bull Thre3Style World Finals held at a packed-to-capacity Commodore Ballroom.
The show was the culmination of an epic five-night DJ battle series at various venues around town this week. The finals challenged each of the five nights’ winners, along with an additional wild card selection, to play three genres in 15 minutes with more flare, technique and audience interaction than the next guy. The champion would then be crowned The World’s Best Party Rocker.
The international combatants included Supa (France), Bitcode (Spain), Nedu Lopes (Brazil), Bazooka (Switzerland), wild card Big Once (USA), and Vancouver’s own Hedspin. Renowned DJs and party rockers in their own right, Vinyl Ritchie, Nu-Mark, and Z-Trip played the bonanza before and after the battle.
With each contestant taking the audience on a frenetic, bass-bumping, fist-pumping journey of sound, the sets included artists you’d expect to hear at a house party, like Blur, Nirvana, Rihanna, the Rolling Stones and Beastie Boys, all mixed, mashed, and served hot with a side of hip-hop or a club-land bass line. While each DJ clearly paid attention to the judging criteria, hometown hero Hedspin’s fast fingers and seizure-inducing sounds whipped the wobbly crowd into a patriotic frenzy the others just couldn’t compete with.
To their credit, the international imports played their hardest and pulled out every trick known to deejay-kind to try to connect with the audience. Paris’ Supa brought Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze to the party, lip-synched, then took his shirt off. Brazil’s Nedu Lopes peeled off his outer layer of clothing to reveal a shirt that read “Make Some Noise”, then rocked the house with a set list that included retro hits like AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and “Reel to Real’s “I Like to Move it”.
Swiss DJ Bazooka scratched his way around the Troggs’ “Wild Thing” and Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” with fingers faster than Lindsay Lohan’s in a jewelry store. Spanish export Bitcode hit the crowd with the Police, Kelis, and ABBA before freestyle jamming on a crazy handheld keyboard creation. America’s Big Once, however, was met with loud boos and heckling as he started and finished his set, and unfortunately for him, the stage crew further distracted the audience when they began to dismantle one of the nearby turntable stations while he was still playing.
Homeboy Hedspin grabbed immediately grabbed the audience’s attention by starting his quarter-hour with Ray Charles’s “Hit the Road Jack”, threw in some GNR, and didn’t let a minor technical malfunction mid-set throw him off stride.
A full-sized inflatable dinghy complete with Canada flag-waving meathead at the helm, said craft kept afloat by the sardines on the main dance floor during Hedspin’s performance, may have been what cinched the local boy’s victory as the world’s best party rocker, making him $5,000 richer. Or maybe it was that he triumphantly crowd-surfed off into the sunset himself as his time ran out. On that note, watch for a new Red Bull crowd-surfing contest in 2012.