Review: deadmau5 at Virgin Mobile FreeFest

The Baltimore Sun

The hype had been building all day — colorful T-shirts and jerseys adorned on festival-goers, large mouseheads proudly on display — and at 9:20 p.m., the West Stage was filled with fans and their glowsticks. They had come for deadmau5 (pronounced "Dead Mouse"), the Canadian DJ who stands at the top of an elaborate stage set-up and plays thumping, bass-driven electronic music. He DJed the MTV Video Music Awards last year, and his sort-of cute, very creepy mouse-head has made him an international superstar of dance music. (He has the industry connections and Playboy model girlfriend to prove it.)

His set design did not disappoint. There was a huge black sheet covering the stage, building anticipation for the big reveal. When it finally came down, the DJ gave an emphatic wave to the crowd and began spinning his songs, all with a similar sound and blueprint (build-up with zany computer sounds to a climax of chest-rattling bass). But this wasn't about the music — a deadmau5 show is a spectacle for the senses, which might explain the constant smell of weed throughout the set. The light show is, in a word, incredible. He stands at the apex of two large, hard-edged boxes set at an angle, similar to Daft Punk. Early in the set, the boxes turned into a shifting, vibrant Rubik's Cube. One of the coolest moments came during the drop of a sped-up "Tiny Dancer" sample, where deadmau5 began lip-syncing the lyrics via his light-up mouth.

As much as my eyes were engaged, my ears were not. If any reader could explain (perhaps in the comments) the appeal of deadmau5's music, it'd be appreciated, because it was more perplexing than enjoyable. How has this guy created such a cult-following? Without the busy lightshow, the music would have been too monotonous to enjoy. One of the set's stranger moments came when the music cut out and Bill O'Reilly's voice came over the speakers. It was a clip of his infamous "We'll do it live" tirade from his days at "Inside Edition." While I was questioning the deadmau5 phenomenon, the crowd was not. Glow sticks were constantly flying through the air, women were on men's shoulders and general gyrating was happening all over. "This is so awesome!" exclaimed a fan, who was too in awe to dance. Was it? I left wondering if the crowd was more in love with the deadmau5 character (there's just something about that head) than the music itself.

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