July 7th

I thought I’d pause the usual travelogue component of the blog and instead talk about a neglected aspect of any established live show:  the pre-show music.  This is the stuff you hear being played in the venue between the opening act and the headliner.  I learned early on that it’s important to control the narrative here, because the wrong music can kill the vibe and kick the show off on a weird note.  In the early days, I just left it to chance, never giving it much thought...until a few times when the selections were unnecessarily aggressive, completely off brand, or just plain awful.  The final straw was at a festival in France, when the warm-up DJ thought it would be a great idea, just before the start of my show, to play all of my biggest hits (a classic rookie mistake).  The confused audience thought that perhaps I had started was a disaster.  Ever since then, I have curated as much of the musical accoutrement as possible, including before the opener and after I leave the stage.  In this way, at least in my mind, the entire evening is a fuller representation of what I value musically.  

When I sat down to build the pre-show program this year, I tried not to overthink it and just went with stuff that spoke to me at the moment.  There’s all-time classics (Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain”), relatively new discoveries (Ramm’s “Pave My Way To Tibet”), and other barely known oddities which approximate my constantly shifting aesthetic.  The idea, as with any block of music programming, is for the songs to sound natural together, and to build a sense of intrigue and anticipation.  It’s not by coincidence that the final song before I take the stage is by one of my all-time biggest influences, and the most perennially underrated hip-hop producer of all time: Kurtis Mantronik.  The UK version of the “Music Madness” mega-mix is a masterpiece of b-boy swagger and noise, a technical achievement which stands up to the best ‘00s dubstep and contemporary beat scene bangers.  Twenty or thirty years ago, the fact that this is the song I chose to walk-out to would have been immediately recognized by the audience as a statement of intent, a clarion call and a wink to the true heads in the crowd.  It’s not lost on me that now, it gets no reaction at all.  Not that I’m surprised by this...I’ve known for a long time that my tether to fan expectations and mainstream hip-hop narratives has been irrevocably severed.  I play it because night after night it makes me happy and puts me in a positive headspace to go out and try to entertain for a couple of hours.  If for no other reason, the hours spent curating the pre-show music has proven to be time well spent indeed.  

Oh, and check out these photos I took in beautiful Marseille, France.  

-DJ Shadow