The explosive electronic production of Sydney’s What So Not burst through our Victorian capital on Saturday night, mixing samples of trap, house, hip-hop and EDM into a brilliantly-constructed set that left everyone sweating and gasping for more.
Fresh from finally releasing his long-awaited debut album, Not All The Beautiful Things, in March this year, producer Chris Emerson (you may remember him as Emoh Instead) delivered one of the most intense, high-energy dance shows I’ve ever enjoyed. Accompanied live by insanely-talented guitarist, Trev Lukather, What So Not created a memorable experience held together by entrancing light and visual effects that was equally excitable as it was impressive.
What So Not managed to seamlessly satisfy long-time listeners with early tracks such as 2013’s Jaguar – from when the project also consisted of Australian-favourite Flume; the track which I genuinely credit as my introduction to electronic and dance music – and his huge horn and bass-driven RL Grime collaboration, Tell Me. Additionally, his ability to perform newer tracks off the debut album with such power was greatly appreciated by all fans; if somebody at the gig didn’t know much of his work beforehand, they’d definitely be a lover by now.
What So Not smashed through his big hits from the new album, dropping tracks including ‘Beautiful’, ‘Be Ok Again’ and ‘Bottom End’, as well as his famed singles ‘Gemini’ and ‘Better’. His discography alone is perhaps the most impressive part of his entire act – the sheer amount of great songs (certified bangers, let’s be honest) that he’s released truly sets him apart from a vast majority of other DJ/producers in his league. Not only this, but his understanding of what makes a DJ set engaging; from switching between songs after hearing just enough to be satisfied, but not enough to get bored, to giving the crowd enough old classics to belt out the words to – such as everyone’s favourite, ‘Africa’ by Toto.
On top of this, there was of course the Pink Floyd guitar solos by Trev, as well as dark remixes of the Stranger Things title theme and Rufus Du Sol’s classic, Innerbloom, that had everyone bouncing and pushing through the mosh.
In terms of stage production, I was excited to see What So Not’s signature horse-led chariot (complete with monster-truck wheels, laser beam eyes and smoking nostrils) paired with huge vertical screens displaying kaleidoscope-esque imagery reminiscent of his early SoundCloud EP artwork. Emerson and his team have managed to construct a recognisable brand for the What So Not project – everything from the artwork, to lights, to stage pieces, to obviously the music itself seems like it’s been carefully crafted to fit his very unique aesthetic.
My only wish for What So Not’s 90-minute show in Melbourne was that he invited more guests on stage with him – vocalists, other musicians or even dancers would have really capped it all off. Notably, on the track ‘Goh’ – which he produced with Skrillex – it would’ve been more phenomenal if KLP, who lends her stunning vocals to the build up/verse sections had bounced her way around the stage, pumping up the crowd. Even Winona Oak, who shines through on ‘Beautiful’, or Rome Fortune who raps to ‘Demons’ would’ve been incredible additions to add variety and a change of pace. Also, the long-time What So Not fan in me really wished for more tracks off the original Quack EP to make an appearance – however, I was there for the debut album tour, and I can’t complain about the way he delivered these brand new polished pieces to us on the night.
What So Not has absolutely rocketed, not just in his music production but in his entire stage show, genuinely finding his position amongst some of the top electronic acts I’ve ever seen. Melbourne was absolutely treated on Saturday night, and I can’t recommend his album and this tour enough to people who love good music – and of course who love to party dark and hard.
Saturday June 23
Forum Theatre, Melbourne
Supported by Luboku, Kota Banks and Chrome Sparks
Reviewed by Zach Edwards