Electronic dance music occupies an incredibly unique space within the live music landscape, being one of the only genres in which the focus is primarily on the audience rather than the performer. The DJ acts as a conduit, an alchemist, a translator between the auditory and tactile. As an audience member, there is something deeply visceral about a good dance-oriented DJ set; it transforms the space into a wave pool, triggering perpetual motion throughout the sweat-soaked room with synths that seep into your skin and bass that vibrates your bones. This past Saturday, the excellently curated Tomorrow Never Knows Festival brought two of the best dance DJ’s in the world, Doss and Ariel Zetina, to Lincoln Hall for an evening of booming beats and bouncing bodies.
Chicago’s own Ariel Zetina has been releasing EPs and lighting up dancefloors for years, but just recently released her phenomenal debut full-length record Cyclorama, an experimental collision of different club genres. The set opened with a gorgeous, ominous ambient soundscape filled with lush vocal samples. The wall of sound decayed and reshaped until finally breaking into an infectious beat that immediately got the room moving. Zetina’s set had a very distinct sense of dynamics, strategically using moments of tension to push the crowd away before pulling us back in with yet another contagious rhythm.
The few lyrics that Zetina performed during the set were centered around sexuality and the physical form; the haunting and intimate echoed refrain of “Establish yourself in my body” ringing out over the pulsing drums. Zetina also showed off a coy sense of humor, converting an anecdote about the cis male gaze into a lead up to a cheer-inducing drop; “I’m in line for the women’s bathroom at the airport; I feel two human eyes looking at me, and I think…’Why are you so obsessed with me?’” Ariel Zetina will likely be headlining shows of this size rather than supporting them before too long, so I strongly suggest catching her at an intimate venue while you can.
Doss hit the stage shortly after, and left the audience very little time to catch their breath, bringing to the table an intoxicating concoction of techno, electro-house, deconstructed club, and trance music. The packed-to-the-gills dancefloor began to open, as dancing inevitably made room for itself. The setlist certainly did not disappoint; the pop-chaos of “Cherry,” the plucky synths of “On Your Mind,” and the thick, driving bass of “Jumpin’” all kept the crowd oscillating back and forth, while leaving enough time between the crowd-pleasing hits to keep the crowd consistently wanting more. Doss displayed incredible range during her set, weaving genres and rhythms together with tact and feeling, traversing a wide swath of sonic terrain with the breathless audience happily in tow.
The incredibly well-booked Tomorrow Never Knows Festival once again impressed, putting together a show highlighting two DJs who both proved to be deeply in tune with the eternal spirit of dance music. Doss and Ariel Zetina both led the crowd on a kinetic voyage, finding profundity in rhythm, bringing the entire audience with them to worship at the altar of movement and perspiration. The wall-leaning, arms-crossed, “cool guy” archetype that often seems ever-present in the live music ecosystem was nowhere to be found, as everyone in the crowd seemed touched by the energy being emitted from the speakers. Doss and Ariel Zetina both spoke to the adoring crowd in a uniting, universal language, turning the dancefloor into a temporary utopia, a euphoric celebration of shared humanity.
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