The Scumfrog performs Robot Heart at Burning Man

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The Scumfrog at Robot Heart

   If you’re a burner (or a fan of deep-house for that matter), you should already know about Robot Heart. An art-car at Burning Man —- for the uninitiated, an art-car is a decorated mutant vehicle of sorts that creeps around the Black Rock desert, or playa, at 5 mph ferrying folks to-and-from —- Robot Heart curates some of the best DJs during the event and drives them out to deep playa where they can be as loud as possible and unaffected by the noise-bleed of other soundcamps.

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The Scumfrog at Robot Heart

   The set-times that the veritable Burning Man insitution Rockstar Librarian posts for Robot Heart are 10:00pm - 12:00pm, for everyone playing. No indication of who will play when during those 14 hours of music. You just have to guess, and guess right, or see as much of those 14 hours as possible. It’s very Burning Man in a way; you are promised nothing, and much of your success is dependent on the knowledge your able to acquire beforehand.

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Andy Caldwell at Robot Heart

 So it was when we set out on Tuesday night, 30 strong, and as high as Danny Glover astride out LED bespeckled bikes, to deep-playa in search of Robot Heart. Lee Foss was spinning that evening as was The Scumfrog and Andy Caldwell. It was not to be missed. Departing from Nexus we scanned the horizon, and the 30 of us biked in a pack from mirage to apparition. The longer we searched, the more of our party disappeared to ruts and darkness of the Black Rock Desert, tempted away by the flashing, colored lights. Eventually, it came down to two of us. After regrouping at the temple, Robot Heart was plain to be seen, encircled by 10 - 20 art cars.

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Andy Caldwell at Robot Heart

   We walked over, and lay down in the sand near our bikes as Lee Foss spun a hypnotically restrained set of Deep-House. We talked about the dramatic elements in our lives, about the importance of open communication, spending many hours in this way drinking Bulleit Borboun, speaking softly in each others arms.

   Then, as if called by some unseen beacon, we alighted and walked over to Robot Heart just as The Scumfrog’s set began. Beginning in the early morning and spanning just over two hours into daylight, The Scumfrog’s set slowly built, tantalizingly sprinkling in embellishments like the Beach Boys, a creatively cut “Sounds of Silence” sample from Simon and Garfunkel, and his own “Calling on the Blue Sky” sample as night turned into day.

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DJ at Work: Robot Heart

 Andy Caldwell followed with the best daytime-disco set this writer has heard. Caldwell was all smiles, toying around and making kisses with his lady. And how could he not be? Part of what must be understood about Robot Heart is its size. A double-decker bus with a 15 foot frame heart perched atop and an industrial generator housed inside, there isn’t a lot of room for Robot Heart members to clamor about except on the top. So when the groove gets going and people start dancing, the bus literally rocks with the beat of bodies moving. It’s an incredible sight to see, a mass of flesh moving as one, not quite dissimilar from the motion of a mob overturning a vehicle, but awashed in ecstasy (and perhaps fueled by it), that desperate joy where the mind has no choice but to give in to the body’s will.

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Andy Caldwell at Robot Heart

   I couldn’t be happier then, when Robot Heart released The Scumfrog’s sunrise set as the first mix from Burning Man 2013 on their soundcloud. From the moment I pressed play I was transported back to the desert, to the chill air of dusk and the cascading ridges of mountains slowly appearing in all their purple majesty from the desert fog, to the clear air of sunrise, and dancing with the hippest and most well-dressed people on the playa. Since it was only Wednesday morning and still early in the week, my companion was able to dance her way onto the bus in the most amazing black, The Fifth Element inspired jumpsuit you have ever seen. She threw down all the dance she had and left with an amazing Robot Heart patch, Robot Heart always having the most coveted of shwag. We left Robot Heart to discover one of our bikes stolen, but our spirit’s too high to be thwarted.

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Andy Caldwell at Robot Heart

Pat Mahoney, The Juan MacLean, and Kid Color at The Smart Bar

Pat Mahoney: photograph by Michael Egon Schiele

Rat Bag Red

My buddy Zak and I have been bootlegging beer for four years now. It started as a little operation in our kitchen —- two scruffy guys huddling over a 5 gallon kettle straddling two burners —- to a 25 gallon kettle and 20 cornelius kegs, nearly a legitimate operation. It only seemed fitting that I would bring a keg up for my cousin’s wedding in Kenosha. It should have been an easy task to finish a few gallons of beer with my family before needing to be back in Chicago for Pat Mahoney and The Juan MacLean to get their DFA on.

   Unfortunately, my maneuverings up north did not go as well as planned; the catering staff immediately put the kibosh on alcohol being served that was not purchased through their services. So we did what any self-respecting wedding-goers and groomsman would do: we drank it in the parking lot. Everything was working out perfectly, except we didn’t finish all the beer. We could only sneak away from the actual wedding a few times to whet our whistles on something other than the $2 Coronas the bar was offering. I had no other choice but to drive home with a half empty keg knowing there was no time to drop it off at home before getting to the Smart Bar.

   The Juan MacLean: photograph by Talley McLain

   By the time I arrived at Smart Bar, the place was already hopping. Kid Color was laying it down and the atmosphere was good. We knew we had about 30 minutes before The Juan MacLean was scheduled to start his set, so we did as any self-respecting individuals with a keg in their car does and drank from it, talking and smoking. We did this a few times throughout the evening, sitting in the quiet car as the Wrigleyville streets slowly found themselves vacant. We laughed about how adorable Juan MacLean was drinking champagne all night and then watching Pat Mahoney play his set from the DJ booth standing as a stoic body-guard. We struggled with concepts of family, thinking about the wedding I had just been to and the family like functionality of DFA. At some point around 5am we eventually left, satisfied.

The Juan MacLean complete with champagne: photograph by Michael Egon Schele

Kid Color: photograph by Michael Egon Schiele

SBTRKT & Disclosure: Official Lollapalooza Afterparty at The Mid.

These days most clubs won’t let you congregate outside until the doors open. This makes arriving early for tickets at the door challenging. After driving past the Mid a few times, dinner, and a few drinks, we only had to wait an hour and a half to purchase tickets for this exclusive afterparty. Unfortunately, we missed all of DJ Sushi, but caught a fun, up-and-down set from DJ Zibo.

The masses arrived from Lolla, complete with an obnoxious Deadmau5 helmet wearing gentleman, and they would not be disappointed. The Disclosure brothers Guy and Howard began their DJ set with their track “When A Fire Starts to Burn.” Throughout their very cool (and very UK) set they also included “Latch,” “F For You,” and “White Noise.”

Poor SBTRKT. How do you follow two handsome British boys? By playing a dance-your-socks-off set that blew my expectations out of the water. Beginning with Koreless and finding time to fit in Mount Kimbie, Moderat, and some Boards of Canada, SBTRKT annihilated the capacity crowd. Annihilated. Bow to your new master, club-kids. SBTRKT is your new lord.

Nicolas Jaar at the Ray-Ban X Boiler Room Official Pitchfork Festival Afterparty: July 20

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   An amazing set spoiled by surged breakers; the power to Nicolas Jaar’s equipment, amps and sound, plus two projectors blew three times during Jaar’s hour long set at the Ray-Ban X Boiler Room Official Pitchfork Festival Afterparty. Jaar was visibly frustrated and seemed to remove his computer much later in his set after muttering something about, “having to play from his iTunes” internally upset after the last outage. Rumors abounded about Jaar canceling another appearance later on at Primary due to computer issues, but I doubt that Jaar would devalue a quote-unquote ‘Exclusive’ performance… whatever that means. Still, the music was fantastic, albeit interrupted. Photos by yours truly Michael Egon Schiele and polaroids by the wonderful Talley Phillippe-McLain. Make sure you scope out Jacques Greene in the second polaroid on-deck. Le Memé!

Nicolas Jaar:

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Egon Approves: Jackson and His Computer Band - Grace

   Normally it doesn’t take eight years to follow up your debut record, but when you’re on Warp, you do what you want, right? I suppose if it sounds this good it really doesn’t matter how long it takes to make. Jackson and HIs Computerband is releasing their new album Glow in September on Warp Records and the new singles ‘Arp #1’ and ‘Vista’ are evidence enough that this should be an excellent record. You can pre-order a copy over at Bleep, and, while you wait, enjoy these tracks:

   I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed watching Madeon. Of course, I am a little Franco-phile at heart, so maybe it makes great sense. Whomever was responsible for the lighting design on the main stage should pat themselves on the back, just look at these pictures. Whooeee! Enjoy!