A medley of young dudes, eager adults, petite ladies and self-identified hip hop heads wrap themselves around the exterior of The Airliner. I recently moved to Los Angeles and had yet to attend the infamous Low End Theory. When I discovered it was only a ten minute drive from my apartment and Samiyam + Shlohmo were playing, I couldn’t resist popping my Low End Theory cherry. Me and my buddy Nathan, a fellow journalist and trip hop fanatic, waited for about an hour before the line started moving. This was when I got my first taste of the Low End Theory atmosphere.
Early on, a black man around six feet tall approached my friend and I with some CDs and flyers. At first glance I assumed he was a normal dude attempting to pass out his shitty demo—I was wrong. This was Percee P of Stones Throw Records pushing his material to the patrons in line. We didn’t buy anything but we had a nice chat with him about the LA hip hop community, Stones Throw and Madlib. He insisted we pull up a video on our phones of him rapping with MF Doom, then left as quickly as he approached.
Have you ever seen so many pictures and videos of someone that when you see them in person you feel like you’re already acquainted? That’s the way I felt when The Gaslamp Killer walked past my friend and I into the club. I experienced it again when I saw Jonwayne pass me on the stairs. I know both of these performers are just normal dudes who like to make music, but I still felt awe struck and couldn’t muster the courage to say anything at the time. A few hours later I blurted a “Great set tonight, man!” in the direction of Gaslamp, but that was about it.
It was indeed a great set. The Gaslamp Killer played some new Dimlite and Jonwayne tunes which completely blew my mind. Get ready for some amazing releases from those two. The Gaslamp Killer got his name for playing out strange music to crowds in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, subsequently killing the shows. When I first heard this story, I assumed the audience was just too ignorant to appreciate the music he was playing out. Turns out I was only half right. Gaslamp’s set consisted of some amazingly danceable material, slow jams, and one particular song which sounded like a combination of static, machine noises and Lucifer destroying the inner workings of the speaker. It was crazy. Gaslamp definitely has the balls to play music you wouldn’t even show your friends in private. The set itself was mind blowing and I got to hear some of his infamous turntablism. If The Gaslamp Killer ever performs near you, do yourself a huge favor and go.
Samiyam started his set with a new track—holy shit. It started off with variously pitched voices saying “Drugs.” When the beat hit I was reminded of “Super Chronzio Bros. 2”off of Rap Beats Vol.1 due to the crazy machine-like, high pitched sound lining the outside and filling the dead space of the beat. But if you weren’t looking for it, you would never notice it over the incredibly funky and dark bass filling the room.
He cut the first song short after the second chorus and dropped the music into an old, slow jazz tune, announcing, “You probably don’t like this; your father listens to this. That’s me.” It was different, it was enjoyable, but the crowd grew restless. A kid next to me screamed, “DROP IT!” only for Samiyam to look up, raise one index finger and mouth out the words, “One second.” The man truly knows how to put on a show.
The rest of Sam’s set was filled with mostly new tunes. Many have the typical Samiyam bass-heavy vibe. Most of it seems a little darker than Sam Baker’s Album, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. Samiyam’s next release may be his best album yet.
By the time Shlohmo was up, a large crowd was pushing against the speakers. Shlohmo’s original music paints luscious landscapes with bulky basslines and ambrosial pads inspiring a range of feelings from comfort to anxiety. Typically slow and cumbersome, I partially assumed Shlohmo’s live set would emulate this vibe. I was mistaken. Shlohmo’s live set was aggressive and energetic. The crowd undulated back and forth, removing any idea of holding one spot consistently. He played a lot of bass-heavy tunes and even dropped some trap. Overall the experience was unlike anything I expected from Shlohmo after his last two releases, Bad Vibes and the Vacation EP. If you’ve avoided Shlohmo because you prefer ecstatic sets, don’t fret, you will not be disappointed.
I go to a lot of shows. Raves, metal shows, hip hop performances and everything in-between, but none of them have the same atmosphere as Low End Theory. I didn’t sense any naivety, everybody seemed to know what they were getting into. Low End Theory is a magical occasion, and a night I’ll be returning to many, many times.