James Blake DJ Set Sells Out the Museum of Natural History
This past Saturday, the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan brought in James Blake (DJ set) for a sold out show as part of their long-running One Step Beyond series. The series has been bringing artists into the museum for many years now, including big names such as Foster the People, Animal Collective, RJD2, Moby, and even Kanye West. The series is presented with Brightest Young Things which, according to the New York Times, is, “a web-site-turned-events-organizing-juggernaut that has become the locus of Washington [DC]’s new-cool art and music scene.” Brightest Young Things is clearly making headway in NYC, with this Museum party bringing in a totally new level to the music experience.
This month’s big name was British producer and sing-songwriter James Blake who put on a great DJ set for the night. His DJ set is quite different from his live set, which is especially known for his fabulous and unique vocals and brings in Ben Assiter on drums and Rob McAndrews on guitar/sampler. However, Blake is also known for his music producing skills in which he creates experimental electronic music. Saturday night, Blake took to the DJ booth and displayed some music that he really enjoys, such as Maya Jay Coles and Mount Kimbie. Blake’s set could be described as industrialist dub or minimalist dub. All of the artists, including the 2 openers Falty DL and Obey City, played very mellow and downtempo sets, which really was perfect for the setting.
To get an idea of a James Blake DJ set, check out this recording from the Boiler Room.
When you first approached the Museum, walking towards the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the lobby’s exterior 50ft walls are all windows that at night are illuminated by LED lights. When you walk inside, you realized that along the lights are long vertical plant gardens, which included basil, rosemary, and more.
When you walk into the Rose Center, you emerge on a landing overlooking the room. At 10pm not too many people had arrived yet and it was a perfect time for exploring. Throughout the Center there are interactive displays, cool rocks, moving replicas of galaxies, and tons of information. My friends and I wound our way up slowly along a spiral pathway, which recounts the history of the universe, starting with today and culminating in the Big Bang Theater where you get to watch a 4 minute 3D movie on the universe. I’ve been to this exhibit before, but during the
day time with my little cousin it just seemed a lot less interesting. Suddenly, with my friends and the cover of night, all of the illuminated displays had new life. We were fascinated by all of the different rocks: this one showing the first fossilized life forms on Earth, that one showing the earliest signs of oxygen, this one being the oldest (which was about 5 BILLION years old!), and more. Since we were taking our time, it really sunk in how lengthy the history of the universe is and how Earth (and especially life on Earth) is just a blip in that history.
Finally, you reach the top and you are at the Big Bang Theater. Inside there is a 4 minute 3D movie about the universe and the Big Bang that is awesome, emphasis on the awe. You don’t wear 3D glasses to watch the film in 3D; rather, the image is projected onto the concave, spherical ground. This medium allows for the projection to create an epic trompe l’oeil. It was so epic, in fact, that I just had to stay and watch it twice, oohing and aahing the whole time.
Downstairs the music was playing and the crowd grew little by little. Satellite-looking projectors showed galaxies whizzing by. The exterior of the Big Bang Theater was a giant white sphere and images were being projected onto the bottom of it, where we had just watched the 3D movie on the inside. The same images were also being projected onto a screen behind the DJs. Right near where you were dancing was a giant asteroid. On the back wall were beautiful images of different kinds of galaxies turning and melding into one another.
The party was 21+ so there was a bar with beer and wine in the back. By the end of the night the floor was so sticky, I could understand why they only hold the event once a month. The mellow beats of all 3 DJs were really perfect for this scene: I could talk with my friends about a key fact I had just read or mosey off and literally start into space. The whole room was buzzing with people chatting, sipping wine, and swaying to the music. At the very end of the night, when James Blake took the stage, knowing
that this precious night was almost over, we began to really take the music a little more seriously and started dancing amongst ourselves, since a majority of the crowd was not dancing but rather mingling.
Overall this experience was amazing. Being able to see the exhibit at night really brought out all of the best aspects to the Space Center and they should do more night showings, even without music. The music added a new medium with which to discover science and to draw in a demographic that perhaps wouldn’t normally race to go to the Museum of Natural History. Also, the visualizers weren’t just there to tease your visual senses, they were actually there to teach. As a result, I learned a lot while simultaneously having a great time. I would definitely recommend the One Step Beyond shows. Even if you’re not super familiar with the artist playing that night, go anyway. Maybe you’ll learn something new.
One Step Beyond will conclude its season on June 7 with a DJ set by headliner Q-Tip, Nickodemus, and DJ Eleven. More info is available on the One Step Beyond website.