Friday, March 3, 2006


Tell Us What You Think: Agree with Ames' take on seeing Paul Oakenfold, the Chemical Brothers and Erick Morillo live at Ultra.NY? Feel like she must be deaf, dumb and blind? This is your chance to spout off and share your opinion.

Do you agree? Let us know if you see eye to eye.

Not sure what to say? Read our review to get started.

Dying to see Ultra Fest in Miami? Get details about the Winter Music Conference from CityGuide.



Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield, New York City,  9/16/05


Pounding dance beats. Trainer-clad club kids. Trippy trails from twirling, green glow sticks. Lasers playing languidly over the swirling smoke machine haze. A warehouse rave? A downtown dance club? Plausible, but no. I’m coming to you live from Club Central Park. That’s right. This movable beat feast is Ultra.NY, an off-shoot of the Ultra Music Festival, one of the world’s foremost live dance music events. (Catch it in Miami during the World Music Conference, March 24-28!)

Crushed into Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield like a crowded club pushing the limits of fire hazardry, the Ultra.NY festival is sold out and steaming hot. And with good reason. The talent this evening has attracted the likes of DJ heavyweights Paul Oakenfold and The Chemical Brothers.

Dance music gets short shrift in the live music arena, which is a shame, but not terribly surprising. Often the province of the underground rave scene and international club contingent, dance music is ultimately better suited to the permanent midnight of the darkened dance floor, set with strobes, staged with lasers, and laced with the odd go-go girl or boy. Set your club scene outdoors, in a landscape consisting of two tents and a huge stage atop a soccer field, and you’ve got the odd confluence of nature, technology and quirky fashion choices that I see before me today. I must say, it’s brilliant.

The smallish NYC tent is a cozy little sweat factory. Boris is giving the kids their aerobic workout, sending thudding beats through the thick, provocatively green-scented air.

The Ultra Tent is crammed, makeshift wall to makeshift wall, with glistening revelers getting down to the pounding sounds. This tent is the place to be, featuring the up and comers of the NY DJ scene sending the crowd into a frenzy. It’s the one spot that most closely approximates a club experience.

Now on to the Main Stage, where the real draws today are Paul Oakenfold and The Chemical Brothers. Oakenfold is an almost elfin man with a puckish smile, who feeds off seeing what gets his crowd going. His is a mostly mellow set of trance-inducing beats and samples, interwoven from an impressive array of vinyl. Paul leaves the turntable for long stretches as he fishes through his collection for the perfect sample. Those moments of perfection come most often when he spins selections from his last album, Bunkka – crowd pleasers, all. But it’s altogether a tough sell, with the audience mostly just bobbing our heads. No real dancing to this dance music, yet. I do think the daylight is doing him a disservice, not being as conducive to the wild abandon that anonymous darkness inspires.

The Chemical Brothers take the stage just as the last vestiges of daylight disappear behind the treetops. And finally the crowd at the main stage gets down. The night sky is the limit of our club’s walls, with blankets of smoke pumped in gallons to set the evocative haze. Green lasers highlight the swirling smoke as their beams seem to slice into the trees on the periphery. It is now a rave, glow sticks and all.

These are block rockin’ beats, to be sure. The Brothers are showstoppers, weaving techno wizardry with an incredible array of computers and synth musical machinations. Theirs is a jaw-dropping bank of equipment of sci-fi proportions – like something out of a vintage New Order video, crossed with the bridge of Zaphod Beeblebrox’s ship. The sophisticated display of imagery playing against the backdrop is symbolic of the Brothers’ performance. With visuals synced to shift with the song changes, every nanosecond is a highly choreographed exercise in precision, making the Chemical Brothers a counterpoint to Oakenfold’s spin-by-the-seat-of-his-pants style.

While the Chemical Brothers certainly cranked the scene up several notches, the real stand-out of the festival is Erick Morillo in the Ultra tent. That’s the place to be tonight, with an imaginative set that brings down the house over and over again. Just when you think he couldn’t get the crowd any higher, there he is, sending us into entirely new stratospheres. This club is jumping. In fact, that phrase doesn’t even do it justice. He is the one artist of the evening to really effectively employ dynamics. His highs, his lows – everything keeps us in a state of perpetual, expectant agitation. And the suspense is killing us.

As he wraps up his set, we come to realize that sweet dreams really are made of this. And I, for one, can’t wait for Eric Morillo’s new club, Pacha, to open. Soaking wet and exhausted after two hours with Morillo, the crowd and I still want more. So, more I’ll have. See you at the Ultra after-party at Crobar…

-Ames Friedman

Summer Concerts Poll: What's this summer's must-see tour?

Poll Results: Must-see tour of summer 2006
-22%: Madonna
-19%: Ozzfest
-14%: Tim & Faith
-11%: Warped Tour
-10%: Civic Tour: Black Eyed Peas and Pussycat Dolls
-  8%: Fall Out Boy & Hawthorne Heights
-  6%: Kenny Chesney
Why'd you click that pick?   
Tell the world: Why did you vote the way you did?
Did we miss your pick?
Tell the world: Did we leave off the one tour you think matters most?
Miss your chance to vote?
See this week's poll: You're never just a number to us, but your opinion counts!

TixGirl's Top 11 Tours of 2005

2005 was a darned good year in live music. It had everything one could want in a concert -- megatours like U2, the Stones, Kanye and Green Day, must-see club tours, like Bright Eyes with The Faint, and everything in-between. Who could forget killer combos like the White Stripes with The Shins, Alicia Keys with John Legend, Aerosmith with Lenny Kravitz, and 50 Cent with Eminem? Yeah, it was that kind of year. But when push comes to shove, in the pit or on the dance floor, these tours were tops in my 2005 Time Capsule:

1. U2, 5/18: Continental Airlines Arena, NJ
2. The Faint, 10/16: B.B. King Blues Club, NY
3. Dave Matthews Band, 5/9: Roseland Ballroom, NY
4. Coldplay, 5/17: Beacon Theatre, NY
5. Martha Wainwright & Sarah Blasko, 10/25: Bowery Ballroom, NY
6. Green Day, 4/30: Mullins Arena, MA
7. Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright & Ben Lee, 8/4: Prospect Park, NY
8. Bright Eyes & The Faint, 5/27: 9:30 Club, DC
9. Alicia Keys & John Legend, 4/20: Radio City, NY
10. NIN, 11/2: MCI Center, DC
11. Depeche Mode, 12/7: Madison Square Garden, NY

In Your Opinion: Who was tops in 2005? Who was so bad they should be ashamed of themselves? Post your own lists here!