Bassnectar Kicks Off His 2017 Festival Circuit at Okeechobee with Rarities, Fan-Favorites, and Gigantic Roman Candles

   On Saturday, March 4th, 2017 at 9:30PM sharp, Lorin Ashton took to the stage in south-central Florida to mark Bassnectar’s second year running at Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival. This would be his inaugural festival set of 2017, and the audience’s anticipation hung heavily in the crisp air. Despite set overlaps with award-winning co-headliners Solange and Sturgill Simpson (and with Usher & the Roots following closely behind), Bassnectar still managed to draw what was by far the largest crowd of the weekend, filling the large expanse in front of the towering BE stage with an impenetrable sea of bassheads — testament to the awe-inspiring power of bass in American music culture.

   With a classic ‘Bassnectar’ move, Lorin wasted zero time getting into his flow, caring little if we had the time to catch our breaths. With the crowd on the verge of exploding in the eerie dusk, the bubbly opening measures of “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes peeled out over our heads as Lorin’s short and final warning to “buckle your seatbelts” before diving straight into his fiery remix of Massive Attack’s “Risingson.” As if to prime us for the rest that was to come, Lorin gave “Risingson” a special little twist with the Clipse “When the Last Time” acappella that many bassheads will recognize from the new Speakerbox” VIP that debuted earlier this year during the X-Games. With this wildly energetic mashup to set the tone, it was immediately apparent that he was still riding the wave of down-n-dirty vibes which so heavily characterized his Aspen set.

Photo Shot by Steven Olshin

   It’s no mystery that festival sets tend to be a little different from other Nectar sets. Conceivably the same goes for any artist — playing at festivals is just…different. And many artists will tell you that they can be more challenging as well. But Lorin proves time and time again that he can rise to this challenge with the deftness of an zen master. He takes a few minutes near the beginning of the set to find the “pulse” of the crowd, testing the waters with a few better-known fan favorites such as his remix of Buku’s “Front to Back” (which provoked a massive glowstick eruption) and the famed G Jones collab “Mind Tricks” (garnished with some farm-fresh acapellas) until he finds that one sound which really brings out the crowd’s inner bass animals. Make no mistake: Bassnectar specializes in mind-control. Once he finds that pulse, he will stay dialed into it for the rest of the show.       

       Sure enough, it was during “Yes,” Lorin’s nasty collab with Datsik and about the sixth track played in the Okee set, that we first started hearing people yell out like Lorin had been mowing the floor with a machine gun. Seemingly spurred on by this outpouring of energy, he followed through with a barrage of hidden headbangers which built up to a massive release with the punishing drum-n-bass anthem “Exodus” by Noisia and Mayhem. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bassnectar set without at least one total non-sequitur thrown in the mix — the grand operatic finale of “Exodus” fell away abruptly to yield the Zombies’ “Time of the Season” and a lightly-edited “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. While this throwback had everyone groovin’, we soon realized that it was only the elaborate setup for an energetic edit of Hudson Mohawke’sThunder Bay” which artfully introduced some elegant future-bass vibes into the madhouse of Bassnectar.

      It was clear by this point that Lorin had found his groove. He followed “Thunder Bay” with a procession of hip-hop-infused tracks which showcased his knack for highly creative acapella mixing, including the fierce Proper Villains remix of his track “The Future” mixed with an MIA acapella and the hard-hitting trap beat “Molly” by Pyramid Juke mixed with a T.I. acapella. It is moments like these that truly cement Bassnectar’s “musical god status” — something like the electronic music equivalent of Metallica or AC/DC. To watch Lorin on stage is to watch the embodiment of what every aspiring DJ/producer dreams of becoming: the lone conductor with the power to read minds who holds every crowd no matter how large or how small right in the palm of his hand, master of flow and feeling, who nonetheless never seems to play anything other than exactly what he wants to hear. The sense one gets is not that Lorin merely knows what the crowd wants to hear, but that he’s tapped a window into your soul — that at any given moment he’s on stage feeling a part of what you’re feeling in the audience. The effect this has is nearly alchemical. Transitions flow with an unreal precision, and acapellas slide into place as if they had always been there.

     Indeed, Bassnectar is never one to let his audience forget who the king of bass is. As his time slot neared its closure he began turning the heat back up once more, treating us to his rare and highly-coveted remix of Run DMT’s “Sugarcube” and a heated version of “Lost in the Crowd” which included a maddening tease of “Vava Voom.” But perhaps one of the coolest moments of the night was a sudden drop into low-tempo territory with Enigma’s deep and aetherial 2010 remix of “Saegloeplor” by Sigur Rós followed by a rowdy clapback with the ill.GATES remix of the Nectar classic “Boombox” — complete with on-stage pyrotechnics and a great deal of ruckus from the crowd. Of course, Lorin took the ensuing frenzy and ran with it, riding “Generate” into “Paracosm” as the lead-up to the family photo. Though he is characteristically a man of few words, Lorin was feeling talkative at Okee, taking the time to wish his fans a happy New Year and, in a move that hearkened back to the politically progressive roots of Burning-Man-era Bassnectar, shared a resounding “Donald Trump is a lying bitch” moment with the crowd. “It feels good to say that on a live mic,” said Lorin, “practicing my sacred freedom of speech.”

   Alas, he wasn’t quite done with us yet. The night wrapped up in style with the yet-unreleased G Jones collab “Underground,” a merciless experimental banger which left us begging for more when the lights finally came back up. Overall, the Okeechobee set blew our minds and clearly stood up to the high expectations which were set before it as the year’s first Bassnectar festival experience. Considering the heavy and diverse material brought out in the X-Games set and in this one, it seems like a good bet that 2017 will be yet another huge year for Bassnectar. We simply cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us.

(Video shot by Caroline Frasca)

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