SHOW REVIEW: James Blake

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Artist, producer and DJ, James Blake, revitalized his little-known side project, 1-800-DINOSAUR, with a secret warehouse show Friday night in Los Angeles. While better known for his work as a solo artist and for his frequent collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Blake’s 1-800-DINOSAUR originated in 2013 by him and other artists, like Moony Habits, as a British electronic collective, DJ-ing at various clubs and warehouses and eventually creating an EP and self-titled mixtape by the mid 2010s.

Blake, who will headline the small Music Tastes Good festival in Long Beach today, teased the show via Instagram story with little explanation. Fans could engage with a post on fellow 1-800-DINOSAUR artist-- Moony Habits’-- Facebook to get a secret password for tickets and information on the performance.

Located in a small, two-story warehouse in downtown LA’s Art’s District, the few ticketholders were greeted by a robust yet mysterious smell of incense. Amidst the cloud of smoke-machine fog, it was nearly impossible to navigate the warehouse. The space was left bare, apart from the makeshift bar and small DJ set up. Contrasted with usual James Blake shows, the minimalism of the warehouse felt nearly DIY. It was as if the crowd was discovering Blake for the first time.

Beginning at 2 A.M., Blake blended in with the smoke, nearly indiscernible and illuminated only by the neon sign behind him. He appeared shy, or perhaps just an artist, lost in his work. During the set, Blake did not need to hype up his crowd, his set and his presence alone spoke for him.

It appeared that the famously serious artist was having the time of his life, laughing as he playfully mixed his song “Overgrown” into Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” seamlessly. Like a god, he knew he controlled the whole room and was free to play anything. Never has a DJ appeared more comfortable and self-assured than Blake with a nearly unparalleled mastery of the equipment before him.

At the end of his set, Blake finished with Frank Ocean’s “Nikes.” The crowd instinctively raised their hands above them, feeling every word as if Ocean himself was in the room. The audience had been nearly hypnotized by Blake’s work.   

After shaking hands with fans during “Nikes,” Blake snuck away to a car of friends waiting for him outside, driving off into the L.A. night. Concertgoers, however, stayed long after, savoring the night and smoking joints on the roof until it was nearly sunrise. Everyone knew they had witnessed something rare from Blake that night. The gravity of the moment seemed understood, but by 5 A.M., the moment was gone as guests poured out into the downtown streets.

For Blake, this night was an opportunity for creative freedom, and for his fans, a chance for an intimate connection with the artist. While it remains unclear when another 1-800-DINOSAUR show will take place, be sure to check the KXSC blog for any updates.  

To discover James Blake’s latest album, The Colour in Anything, click here.    

Kristin Robinson, DJ

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