There’s a fine line between concerts and listening parties. Both involve listening to an artist’s music with a large group of people; you can dance at both, you can sing along at both. The artist is often times in attendance at both (less frequently for the latter). Both are even rather tightly produced — concerts may seem more freeform than playing a recording, but often times they too are planned with immense detail.
So how are they different? In concerts we get an insight into the person behind the artist enigma. We see them in their music-making element and, from this, draw evidence to piece together who they are and what they are like.
This was on display at Detroit’s The Majestic, where 21 year-old British DJ Alex Crossan (known best by his stage name Mura Masa) exhibited a rather mellow presence; however, he didn’t come across as disinterested or bored, but rather highly focused and detail-oriented. The stage was set with a laptop, multiple drums sets, microphones, keyboards and a guitar. He shifted through instruments, demonstrating the breadth of his talent and adding layers to his intricate tracks.
Mura Masa rarely showed emotion; he broke from the flow of his set only briefly to check in on the crowd with a “How are you doing, Detroit?” Yet this lack of animation appeared a necessary side effect of the DJ’s sharp concentration on delivering really spectacular music. The music most definitely took focus.
However, the action on stage was far from dull. On featureless tracks or tracks that Crossan chose to lend vocals to, the producer held the crowd’s attention as if caught in a trance. I stood in awe of a person my own age single-handedly creating such complex music. Many of his most popular tracks have guest features. Rather than playing recordings, he was accompanied by British vocalist Fliss who flexed her versatility, singing and rapping tracks originally delivered by artists ranging from NAO to Charli XCX. Her performance of mainstream breakout single “Love$ick” rivaled the A$AP Rocky original. Given her energetic presence, she also seemed to double as a hype woman, dancing around the stage and calling for the room to dance with her.
No number of shiny features could dampen Mura Masa’s demanding presence though. There were plenty of beats-only breaks throughout the night that allowed the DJ’s production abilities to take center stage. Even during the features, he lent an anchoring quality to the show — everything played was produced by him which made for a cohesive concert.
Throughout the show, my hope that we would catch the DJ in a less serious moment slowly diminished — he seemed keen on preserving his intense focus. Finally, during the first song of the encore, the shell showed a crack. The DJ called his girlfriend in the midst of a solo rendition of “Blu” and left the whole crowd standing on their toes, trying to read his lips as he spoke to her. I guess we all wanted to understand what it’s like to be friends with Alex Crossan.
Given the lack animation from the headline artist, the show had the potential to resemble a listening party, rather that a concert. However, Mura Masa’s stoic presence gave the audience an equally rich understanding of who Alex Crossan is. We learned this young producer is immensely talented, meticulously detail-oriented and not afraid to show he’s having fun every once in a while.