A stalwart in the realm of contemporary dance music, Markus Schulz has done much to bolster the already compelling case for Miami’s importance to the popularization of the movement, since moving here to record and pursue his residency in Downtown’s Club Space. Touring relentlessly behind his latest full-length release, entitled Scream,Schulz made his second stop at Miami Beach’s Mansion Night Club in less than a month, delivering a four and a half hour performance that showcased both the exuberance and the dogged devotion to his craft that are all hallmarks of his sets.
Having recently garnered the honor of being named ‘America’s Best DJ’ by the fans who voted in DJ Times Magazine’s annual poll, Schulz affirmed his relevance, by edging out competition from the likes of Skrillex, Steve Aoki and last year’s winner, Kaskade. The anticipation ran high, manifesting itself in the pulsating waves of rapidly-paced synths that volleyed with frenzy, crashing against pounding bass drops. An audience comprised of both bottle-toting VIPs comingled with the more casual club goers, yet they all seemed to share a common purpose: to dance the night away; entranced by the sounds that bellowed boisterously from the tremendous sound system and into their ears. Resident DJ Laurent Simeca provided a tasteful opening set that sported some truly raucous tech-infused soundscapes. He shows a remarkable aptitude for adapting not only to the general tone of the artist for whom he is opening, but also for engaging the attention of the crowd.
Schulz warmly beamed at the crowd as he took control of the decks at around 1:30 AM and stayed there to close out the evening. The most immediately evident aspect of Schulz’s repertoire as a DJ is the tangible rapport that he has not only with casual audiences, but with his fans as well. Many members of the audience hoisted themselves to the top of the elevated platform from which Schulz commanded the mixer, eager to shake his hand or to communicate with him through messaged scrawled onto their cell phones, and he was always willing to oblige them. After his performance, Schulz also took the time to greet each of his fans individually and take pictures with them; a rarity in an era where the DJ has gradually begun to take on the same sort of significance as the conventional rock star.
Markus has the stunning ability to modulate the tonality of his sets, to shift readily between tempos and ambiences, rendering an engaging experience that has something to offer even for those who don’t consider themselves the biggest fans of trance. There were instances in which the synths came pouring down heavily and rapidly, where they slowed to a crawl and gave way to ethereal vocals and others where the bass took over. It was precisely the right pacing and the right selection for the amount of time he spent on the stage, for at times, it harkened back to the classic trance of the early millennium, but added an element of textural complexity and layered sound that was often lacking in the trance of yore.
There was plenty of new music from Schulz’s new album, including standouts ‘Love Rain Down’ and his collaborative track with Ferry Corsten ‘Loops and Tings.’A dazzling array of visualizations accompanied many of the tracks spun by Schulz during the course of the evening, as lyrics flashed across the screens, echoing them as they oozed from the speakers. The criss-crossing and, at times clashing, ceiling light show was elaborated upon by the club’s troupe of performance artists, who dangled in suspended rings overheard, or danced in shimmering costumes of reflective glass, sending forth a flurry of light in every direction. There was no shortage of engagement at both the visual and sonic levels. As Schulz closed out the festivities, he did so with Gareth Emery’s track, ‘Mansion,’ a fitting homage to the venue and a poignant punctuation mark to what had been an evening of music with an artist at the peak of his capabilities, relishing in every moment of it.