By Paul Rodgers and Jamie McNamara
It’s proving to be a formidable task putting reflections of AEMCON to paper for two main, somewhat related reasons. The first, of course, is trying to articulate the sheer magnitude of the conference which was comprised of three nights and two days of music and workshops. The second reason due to the overwhelmingly extensive programming, the tendency was to attempt to be as omnipresent as humanly possible for its duration, which takes a toll on the body and mind. Alas, we will do our best to cover some of our personal highlights of the 2017 Alberta Electronic Music Conference.
The Librarian, OAKK – One of AEMCON’s best bills came Thursday night at Hifi’s New Wave. Hifi Resident OAKK demonstrated why he’s one of Calgary’s best young selectors and producers with an hour of halftime and midtempo goodies that were mixed flawlessly. The director of Bass Coast and headliner of the night, The Librarian came through with plenty of bass, mixing classics like “Skeng” in a set that often veered into Grime territory. Her set stayed clear of 4/4 tracks, but kept the crowd bopping for the rest of the night. -JM
Spectrasoul/John Rolodex/Nomine – This triple feature at the Nite Owl on Friday night saw a drum and bass takeover upstairs and a dubstep rave in the basement. Traversing the stairs between the two was a barrage on the senses; the tempo dropped as you descended from the jungle above to the cavernous dub below. Edmonton’s Machinist Music label owner John Rolodex proved why he is one of Canada’s best working drum and bass artists with his precision mixing and heavy-handed track selection. Next up was Spectrasoul. Fresh off the release of their latest full length album How We Live, the long-standing UK act was well equipped with a stunning array of drum and bass, highlighting the genre’s breadth by weaving between the more gentle melodies with rolling basslines and more sinister, ominous sounds. Meanwhile, Nomine shook the very foundations of the club demonstrating his mastery of the ever-prolific and evolving true sound of UK dubstep. -PR
Joe Nice – In a true testament to his name and legacy, Joe Nice created a tangible electric energy amongst the crowd at Nite Owl on Saturday. The Baltimore resident is known as the ambassador of underground dubstep in the United States; he has been spinning dubplates for roughly 15 years and runs his own label called Gourmet Beats. He also has an internationally renowned personality: a genuine combination of respect, kindness and humour. Due to his love and connection with the Canadian scene from his past times playing here, Joe had a huge crowd both in front of the stage and behind it, as he cycled through white label dubplates and put on a clinic that exemplified his technical prowess as a DJ. He would hold up stacks of records and let fans or fellow artists select the next weapon in his arsenal, engage with the crowd around him, or even put his headphones on those beside him to hear the next monster track come creeping up. It was an experience as delightful as it was massive. -PR
DJ Brace – Turntablism isn’t always the most musical artform, but that was definitely not the case at Night Owl on Saturday as AEMCON headliner DJ Brace took the stage. The former DMC Champion brought his new album Apatheia to Calgary with a half hour set of all original music that was heavy on tone play. Brace’s turntablism never felt over-indulgent, remaining musical for the duration of his set. The last 30 minutes of his time was spent mixing a multi-genre set that moved comfortably from Joan Jett to Anderson .Paak. -JM
Honourable mentions go to the jam-packed hype that was the Foreign Beggars and to Esette and J.Phlip for the marvelously groovy house and techno dance-party they hosted.
This barely scratches the surface of the behemoth that was this conference; an entire page could easily have been dedicated solely to the incredible workshops, held throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday at the National Music Centre and Beat Drop. Some quick personal highlights include the “Record labels in a changing industry” panel with Spectrasoul, John Rolodex and Luke McKeehan and “Organizing and managing a large scale festival” panel with organizers from Shambhala, Bass Coast, Bass Bus (Circle), Astral Harvest and Sled Island. That one definitely hit home — getting to hear about all the mind-boggling challenges these individuals have to overcome in order for us to enjoy those festivals every year was truly humbling. And finally, getting the chance to interview Foreign Beggars after their mental, sold-out show the night before was a real privilege. Thank you to everyone behind AEMCON from all of us at BeatRoute! SKRRRRA! -PRDJ Brace, Esette, Foreign Beggars, Joe Nice, John Rolodex, Melonade, Nomine, OAKK, Panel, Spectrasoul, The Librarian