Review: John O’Callaghan, Mike Saint-Jules, and Pirate Radio at SRB

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JOC @ SRB

Date:  May 10, 2014
Location:  SRB Brooklyn
Talent:  John O’Callaghan, Mike Saint-Jules, and Pirate Radio

My last review had me out there in the trenches of EDM on Easter morning.  This time, I was out and about in search of “the techno” on Mother’s Day.  What could possibly convince me to leave my house, arouse the ire of my family, and risk the penalty of changed locks upon my return?  John O’Callaghan.

I often skip the opening DJ but I was fortunate to stumble into SRB Brooklyn while Pirate Radio (Karan Mehra and Brian Taylor) was still on stage.  I had heard that Pirate Radio was “not bad, but different.”  That’s a huge compliment coming from Trance Family.  The guys from Pirate Radio apparently combine Progressive House and Trance with live instruments, and they do it extremely well.  I would compare what I saw and heard to when Armin and Eller van Buuren perform together, which I’m a big fan of.  A Pirate Radio performance is essentially one guy throwing down a DJ set in combination with another guy playing a guitar along with the selected track.  One perfect memory in particular during that set was the “live” performance of Armin van Buuren and Gabriel & Dresden’s Zocalo.

Okay as good as Pirate Radio was, you may have realized by now that I’m just stalling.  I struggled with how to word this review all week, and that dilemma is partially responsible for my tardiness in turning it in.  Let me start by saying that John O’Callaghan is and remains a legend, and even the most exalted of musical gods is entitled to a bad night.  He was also doing his set through at least two false fire alarms and an EMS interruption that included stretcher transport which understandably may have rattled him a little.  However, as someone pointed out to me after the show, “He picked those songs before he got here.”  The set was overly mainstream considering the DJ, with a largely mediocre song selection and an occasionally odd flow of track order.  Granted, not everybody in the room shared my opinion, but I later found out that it was the consensus.

At a certain point in the evening, I decided to scrap what I thought about the set and instead rely on the opinions of fellow attendees for my review, who were hopefully having a very different experience than I was.  I was hanging on by a thread for most of the set and there was one rock bottom moment that comes to mind when I finally let go and gave up.  Mashups are generally terrible 89% of the time, but laying Nadia Ali’s vocals from iiO’s Rapture over the John Askew remix of Stresstest is utter sacrilege.  A mashup can only work if it improves or at the very least doesn’t ruin the original tracks.  John O’Callaghan was essentially up there on stage smearing lipstick on the portrait of the Mona Lisa, thinking that was an improvement.  I understand that Stresstest is HIS Mona Lisa to light on fire, but I’m not going to initiate a phony golf clap while he burns his art.  My critique is getting a little obscure here but if you know Trance, and especially if you know John O’Callaghan’s work, then you understand exactly what I’m saying.

In discussing the show with various people the next day, we were all in agreement that John O’Callaghan is better than what he delivered the previous evening.  Was it a terrible set?  No.  Was it a passable set for a lesser DJ?  Sure.  I don’t know if his set was designed with a New York City crowd in mind.  Maybe he thought that’s the type of thing we wanted to hear, as European DJs coming through our uncultured backwoods often do.  I was, and remain, a huge fan and am very much looking forward to seeing John O’Callaghan at Future Sound of Egypt 350 when he returns, although that will be a joint set with Aly & Fila and a totally different experience entirely.  I anticipate that it will be a good show and hope that my review never finds its way to his laptop screen, or that he at least doesn’t recognize me as the asshole who wrote this review.

Moving on…I’ve known Mike Saint-Jules for almost two years but had never heard one of his sets before because hey, I’m a horrible friend.  Most of my male friends refer to themselves as DJs and/or producers.  I regularly ignore their podcasts, mix shows, and SoundCloud links because honestly, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”  Mike has opened and closed for some huge names, was featured on both Armin van Buuren’s A State of Trance and Markus Schulz’s Global DJ Broadcast, and is signed to Black Hole Recordings.  He has all the makings of someone who shouldn’t be ignored but I somehow managed to do just that until May 10, 2014.

You’re going to experience some level of trepidation when having to sit through a friend’s set, fearful that it might be a wreck and you’ll have to look him in the eye and pretend that it wasn’t.  I was relieved that he not only was amazing, but he went above and beyond the call of duty in his chosen vocation and busted out the turntables, records, and even an assistant to shuffle through the aforementioned records on his behalf using only a cell phone as illumination.

Mike’s set started with a bang as soon as John O’Callaghan’s ended, picking up the pace and lifting those in the room out of the rut they were wallowing in for the last few hours.  He kicked things up a notch with a combination of current DJ equipment and old school turntables side by side, feverishly cutting back and forth between today’s technology and yesterday’s fossils.  He had also decided to attempt this amazing feat where he would play requests – some received in advance and some thrown at him on the spot.  He had asked attendees to tweet him their requests but at least two guys ran up on stage and shoved their cell phone in his face.  They apparently didn’t get his memo.

There was an overwhelming amount of support and positive feedback during Mike’s set, not just from the audience but also from staff members involved on the promotional end of the evening who were not immune to losing their minds when their own request was played.  The room was packed before John O’Callaghan even got on stage and remained packed for the majority of Mike’s set which ended sometime around 5:00 a.m.  I’m looking forward to seeing Mike on stage again in the future and am certainly amenable to checking out his podcasts and SoundCloud page, when I “got time for that.”

While no bad DJ can mistakenly have a good night, I realize that good DJs aren’t perfect and will have some off nights. I don’t regret leaving my house to see one of my EDM heroes for the fourth time, and this summer will be the fifth time.  My key still unlocked the door when I got home, and will hopefully continue to work after I get back from Future Sound of Egypt 350.

Aimee for EDMNYC

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