Yesterday, Santa Barbara was treated to its best concert of the year, even though it was shut down early. From trap to dubstep to hip hop to the madness of Porter Robinson, Matador Music Festival had a lot to offer, especially for a festival in it’s infancy. Let’s hope that in the future, permits stand for something, and fans and artists aren’t cheated out of the end of the show.
Held at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, the site of the Santa Barbara fair, Matador was definitely one of the coolest setups I’ve seen. Festival tickets also counted for admission to the carnival, and with the Matador wristband and sticker, concert-goers were free to enjoy the best of both worlds. I got the the venue at around 3 and made my way to the Bowl, which looked like a perfect fit for bullfighting (hence the ‘matador name’). Robotic Pirate Monkey were finishing off a very groovy set that was highly reminiscent of the DoLab stage at Coachella (no surprise, they played there weekend 1), and the small crowd of about 100 was vibing out. The weather was perfect, the setting was relaxed, and the day showed lots of promise.
K Theory Live was up next. A recent project of K Theory’s, the quartet (2 Dj’s, a drummer, and an MC) dropped 100% original work, most of which was hip hop and trap, although each song had plenty of overlap with other genres. Considering that this was the group’s second show, I’m very excited to see what the coming years have in store. That being said, there is a bit of work to be done; the set’s pacing was a bit awkward at times, and it got very close to being repetitive. Also, I couldn’t understand why every song needed to feature the MC while being pre-recorded. Overall, though, K Theory Live is definitely a unique show, and it’s always exciting to see artists push boundaries. I’m very interested in seeing where this project will end up.
It was now time for Alvin Risk. He played a perfectly spaced set, opening with disco-house (Chris Malinchack’s ‘So Good To Me’) before heading into high-energy house and dubstep. His mixing was pretty much on point, and he brought in some interesting samples on top of it all (monkey screeches being my favorite). Highlights from his set included ‘Big Bad Wolf’ and his remix of skrillex’s ‘Ruffneck Bass.’
Heiroglyphics was up next, and played a solid, old-school hip hop set. I went to check out the festival, got a caramel apple, and sat in the stadium seats to take in the scene. The show was populated by the college students of Isla Vista, which actually made for a solid crowd that wasn’t afraid to get down. The overall festival vibe was incredibly laid-back, even down to the music choice in between sets (deep house and Pretty Lights, perfection). Towards the end of Heiroglyphics, I made my way front left for Seven Lions.
I’d seen him perform as an opener for Porter Robinson‘s Hollywood Palladium set on the Circle Assembly, and thought he had some pretty solid dubstep. Now, I think he’s got one of the brightest futures of any American producer. His set was impeccable, opening with drum and bass before heading into some heavenly synth-driven melodic dub. Even though the lightshow was the iTunes visualizer, his set was definitely next-level, and the crowd was loving it. My favorite track was ‘Days to Come,’ but each track played a part in the journey.
Next up was Big K.R.I.T. I have no idea why he got the second-best set time, as he was easily the worst act that I saw all day. I understand that Matador wanted to appeal to more than EDM fans, but Heiroglyphics would have held that spot much better. It didn’t really matter though; Porter Robinson was up next.
I’d been lucky enough to see Porter a few months previous at the Palladium for Circle Assembly, and at SnowBall Music Festival. Each time, I was more than impressed. But the Porter that played Matador was on a whole different level. How do you open with ‘Slam the Door’ and ‘Unison’ before GAINING energy? I seriously could not believe what was happening. His mixing was impeccable, and he brought in elements of popular songs such as ‘Midnight City’ to keep the energy high in between drops. Then, out of nowhere, he dropped Purity Ring’s ‘Obedear’ before unveiling an incredible remix. From there, he went to ‘100% in the Bitch,’ ‘Illmerica,’ ‘Easy,’ and ‘Say My Name.’ Madness. Then he sampled the Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’ before heading in to Oliver’s ‘MYB,’ and ‘Incredible.’ I remember checking my phone in disbelief, knowing that this was still 35 minutes until the set was over.
Then, for the first time that I’ve seen, Porter picked up the mike to say, “Hey guys, thank you so much. I normally let the music talk for itself, but the cops are going to shut us down in 5 minutes. I’m sorry, don’t get down, let’s stay positive. I’m going to play one more song, it’s the most important one I’ve ever written.” It was probably the best way that I’ve ever seen any DJ handle a situation. The crowd cheered as he started ‘Language,’ and all was well. The, two minutes later, the music cut out right before the second drop. Porter, visibly aggravated, walked over to the side of the stage to talk to the cops. The crowd booed, then started chants of ‘play in IV!’ before filing out, disappointed. It was just a terribly handled situation on the PD’s side. I’m not exactly sure why the music was shut down early in the first place, one of the Matador employees said noise complaints from neighbors (11 PM, welcome to Santa Barbara), but the festival had a permit. This wasn’t a warehouse rave. And thanks to Porter, the crowd would have only been mildly disappointed in the end had the cops let ‘Language’ play out. Instead, according to PR’s twitter, “the cops cut the power two minutes later, claiming I was ‘inciting a riot’ by explaining the situation to the crowd.” Bull. The cops were asking for trouble by stopping him halfway through a song. The chances of any violence being done were heightened when they cut off Language. Luckily, the crowd shuffled away, but it definitely left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
All in all, it was a great day. Seven Lions, Heiroglyphics, K Theory, and RBM all impressed me in one way or another, and Porter blew me away. The growth he’s shown in just the past few months, let alone since Coachella 2012, is staggering. He will be the king of electro-house for years to come. And his mature action definitely adds to the picture. We’ll see if Matador makes it back next year; if it does, they had better figure out a way to end on time, not 35 minutes before.
Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 introduced me to the world of electronic music, and ever since, it’s been a huge part of my life. I’m currently a philosophy student at UCSB, but music and shows are my passion. Thanks to EJ, I hope to share the magic of music with anyone interested.