The dense line of attendees outside of Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom stretched for what seemed like miles around two sides of the enormous building on Saturday night. As more and more arrived to the venue from the Red Line train stop across the street, the energy surrounding the outside block hummed in anticipation of the musical carnage to follow once the doors finally swung open.
This night marked Excision‘s second stop on his Paradox stage beta-testing tour in America, after having premiered the set up in Minneapolis the day before. As fans began to pour through Aragon’s doors and up the double staircase into the main ballroom, 3,000 attendees out of the 5,000 tickets sold immediately charged to the front of the floor to catch the first opener, Bear Grillz, play out an hour-long set in front of a curtained wall of screens behind him.
The ballroom was decked out in full spectacle Saturday evening, with hosting organizer React making sure the entire space looked its best for the sold out crowd. The globular ceiling, painted with stars and enclosing the arena in a shroud of fantasy, housed countless archways, balconies, towers and other architecturally stunning structures. Even though I’d been to the Aragon many times before Saturday, the scale of the room had never felt as epic or worthy of appreciation as when Bear Grillz began his set to the quickly filling room.
Wearing no pants and a pair of flip flops, the bear costume played everything from Soundclash to Blink 182 to his and Getter’s “EDM” VIP. From start to finish, the crowd threw their elbows and necks in a frenzy of head-banging dubstep and wall-rattling trap. As he played, the edges of Excision’s Paradox stage leaked into view, giving those in attendance a sliver of sight into what was to come. But first, it was Snails‘s turn.
“THE KING IS BACK,” rang out over the speakers into the pitch black ballroom as he approached the stage at 10:35. Arrays of thin, green lasers stretched like fingers into the clamoring crowd as they sang along with the beginning of the set. Stage-wide pierces of strobes and red light illuminated the hands and arms all the way to the back of the room, where the less daring attendees experienced the music from the second level balconies and sides.
Snails’s mashup between Flosstradamus’ “Mosh Pit” and his own “Dirty Raxxx” easily took the cake as one of the most bombastic and memorable moments of the entire set. Front to back, the then completely full ballroom erupted into a sea of screams and raised arms.
The two opening acts of the evening were incredible and well worth the ticket price by themselves, but once Excision finally emerged from the bowels of the Paradox stage, the evening took a drastic turn. For starters, the temperature in the ballroom rose by ten or fifteen degrees easily, drenching everyone from the floor to the balconies in sweat. All of the house lights were turned off, allowing the true power of the Paradox to dominate the senses.
The stage itself consisted of an absolutely immense wall of screens, similar to the kind of production you’d see at only the country’s largest events like EDC or Tomorrowworld. Excision stood upon a platform in the middle of the screen that moved up and down several times during the set, equipped with its own set of screens to fill out the image behind. A ming-boggling amount of lights were positioned around the entire set up, and comprised half of the spectacle themselves. Smoke machines on the floor and ceiling even produced X-shaped clouds in front of Excision.
The visuals on the actual screens were some of the most beautiful and detailed that I’ve ever had the privilege of viewing. Wide cityscapes, huge moving machines and complex geometric designs personified the music being played simultaneously, providing a completely new environment for every new drop. During one of the songs, the visuals showed the camera driving down a neon-lit highway at night, and I remember being able to see specks of dirt and scratched paint on the distant road signs in the back of the scene. The agonizing attention to detail and movement made the experience of viewing the Paradox one that I’ll never forget. The people involved in the creation of the light arrays, animation and smoke deserve some sort of award on their own for the truly magnificent work of art they created.
From the very first note to the last hit of percussion, the music never strayed from the unbelievably high-octane level of energy that Excision’s become known for. There was never a dull moment when I wished the build would hurry up or that he’d chosen a harder track to drop into. Every small decision was carefully planned out and tested, resulting in a near-perfect performance from all angles. Excision even brought a small, stuffed Simba to hold sky high before throwing it into the lucky arms of someone in the crowd.
After his set finally ended at 1:20, cheers and chants from the crowd brought him back on stage for a final few minutes of music. Despite my sore back and neck and legs and arms and hands, I threw down one last time with the rest of the exhausted attendees.
After cramming ourselves out of the front entrance, Snails and Bear Grillz peeked out from a window above onto the exiting group below and gave a final farewell to one of the most supportive and lively crowds I’ve ever had the pleasure of partying with. As I sit here and write, nearly 4 days later, my ears are still ringing from the unspeakable bass and my own unwillingness to put in my earplugs.
Worth it, a thousand times over.
Tickets for Excision’s Paradox tour can be purchased here.
The Paradox has been revealed! Prepare to experience it live on my 2016 tour! (Link for Tix & Tour Dates in the comments)
Posted by Excision on Tuesday, December 15, 2015