December 14th, 2023 – The Fonda Theatre
Concerts in Los Angeles are always surrounded by some sort of expectation — especially given its direct ties to the industry and its history. In the context of today’s Los Angeles, there’s always a notion that the crowd might feel too cool to dance and that the music won’t connect because of that. Or there’s this idea that artists are pressured to put on their best performance and bring out special guests that make the show more memorable. This city is notorious for artists either giving the best or worst show of their tour. But as someone who has attended shows in Los Angeles my entire life, I must say the outcome doesn’t have much to do with the surrounding pretentious stereotypes but is rather dependent on the kind of energy that fills the stage.
Photo by Carissa Leong (@carissalphoto.cr2)
I walked into The Fonda that night with high expectations. I wasn’t expecting the performance of Vegyn’s lifetime, but I was expecting it to get close. Having seen the London-based DJ and producer play live a few previous times, I had developed quite the soft spot for him. Something about the way he kept the audience on their toes the entire set led me to admire him as more than a producer but also a DJ. When it feels like everyone is an aspiring DJ attempting to create the next greatest TikTok mashup, Vegyn’s signature sound feels like a breath of fresh air. Through his ability to capture the essence of hip hop and rap in the context of electronic, experimental-leaning sounds, Vegyn’s style is anything but formulaic and heavily relies on the element of surprise. It’s often shocking how well his heavy synth or hard-hitting bass pairs with a popular rap song — you never really know what he’s going to pull out next.
The expectations for the unexpected may have been where I went wrong. Going into Vegyn’s set, I expected him to bring the same level of playfulness and innovation to the venue, but as soon as he came on something felt off. The opening notes blared through the venue in a way that made me regret not bringing a pair of earplugs. As the bass-focused track continued to play, I felt it surge uncomfortably through my body. The intensity of the audio left the crowd split — those who seemed to be bothered by it fled to the back of the crowd and those unaffected held their spots. Nonetheless, the energy shifted, and I hoped that the harshness of the sound would soon wane — but it never did.
Photos by Carissa Leong (@carissalphoto.cr2)
As for the music itself, he seemed to be playing more passive tracks. It all felt a bit too stagnant for the crowd to truly immerse themselves within it. Side conversations and constant passersby made the disconnection visible. As Vegyn stood on stage — head down, lost in his turntables — and the dull ambient noises blared through the speakers, the clearly disgruntled crowd slowly began trickling out of the show.
No one went into the Fonda that night with the intention of playing it cool — even in LA. But I fear that the combination of the poor sound quality, lack of energetic tracks, and the minimal interaction between performer and crowd may have led the LA show to be leaning towards the more unsuccessful end. It’s not that I have lost faith in Vegyn; everyone has their off nights. But I do hope the next time he plays he sticks to what he does best — the unexpected.