LIVE REVIEW: Rusko at Amphitheater Ybor 05.05.11
All images via Brian Mahar
There are two ways to try and assess Christopher Mercer’s appearance at Ybor’s re-christened Amphitheater last night: From the stand point of the audience, for whom the 26-year-old Leeds-native better known as Rusko could do no wrong, or from Mercer’s onstage vantage point where he obviously experienced sound issues during his entire 90-minute set.
“Tampa – I tried my hardest to give u a wicked show,” he said in a Twitter message directly after the set, “but with no mic, and no monitors it sounded as if we were floating in a tin of baked beans.” His summation wasn’t very far off at all.
From the second the rising projection screen revealed Mercer, proudly standing amidst the enormous sprawl of metal and flashing lights that he’s turned into his DJ booth, things started to go awry. His mic was clearly off, and his music was clearly devoid of many of its more subtle, higher frequency nuances. The loud bass that many of dubstep’s fans associate with the genre was there, but everything else seemed a bit off – to say the least.
Still, Mercer, who – whether he likes it or not – can arguably be considered the face of dubstep (an ever-ever changing, dynamic genre in itself), attempted to work through the technical difficulties, and at the end of the night it was his effortless charm and pure love for the music that salvaged the set. He recently shared that he shaved his beard off once he realized how humid it was in Florida, and he certainly looked like a carefree child as he stood in the booth playing his role as preacher to the congregation of kids who came ready with an assortment of glowsticks, flashing lights, and skin bearing getups.
His passion for the compositions came though during nearly every second of the performance – which came with an assortment of now-patented Rusko dance moves – and if the crowd couldn’t exactly hear what he was trying to say, then they could still feel the joy the producer/DJ was trying to get across thanks to the countless, wordless interactions he had with the dancefloor. Sure, the frustration was evident in his face (Mercer could be seen shaking his head while queuing up samples, etc., and he even sent out a few angry Twitter messages during the set), but once he cracked open a liter of Ketel One, things seemed to get a little better on his end.
He certainly loosened up more and more with each swig of Holland’s finest spirit, and while his support crew could be seen making adjustments the entire night, Mercer seemed hell-bent on making the most of the situation that he’d been given. He flashed the now unmistakable grin on more than a handful of occasions and even looked somewhat relived after asking the crowd if things were starting to sound a little better. And that’s where the charm really kicks in.
He’s an artist who has been on a whirlwind ride ever since Edgewater, Fla.-native Diplo shed light on him a few years ago. He’s recently brought his wife to come live stateside with him, recorded demos for Britney Spears, and is just now entering the final leg of a headlining U.S. tour, but at the end of the day it’s easy to tell that Mercer cares about the music, and the music only, which is probably what his core audience appreciates the most. He’s constantly running away from media-created labels like “bro-step,” “rave-step,” even “grime-step,” and while his name is associated with a type of music that many detractors say is in its twilight, his effect on fans can be summed up by the scene that played out as the clock approached the three-o-clock hour.
The house lights had been turned on, but Mercer was still at his pulpit, clutching the mic, talking to the large audience that was still gathered on Ybor’s infamous revolving dance floor (which was, thankfully, not turned on last night), the music was still blaring and devotees were still trying to squeeze every last drop of sweat from their already drenched bodies. They didn’t want to quit anytime soon, and if the passion Mercer displayed on stage is any indication of the future, then they probably won’t have a reason to stop anytime soon.