In many corners of the music industry, artists will build a dedicated following in their hometown before catching attention on a national or even international level. But things tend to work a little differently in electronic music, and while Slushii has performed at countless festivals and headlining shows all over the world, it wasn’t until this past week, when he performed at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia, that the southern New Jersey native played a proper headlining show in his hometown.
Halloween may have been on a Tuesday, but South Street was as busy as a typical Saturday night. The sidewalks were buzzing and there was no question the activity would continue without pause for several more hours. Arriving with time to spare before the music would begin, I headed to the local Starbucks, where I happened to meet another photographer who would be covering the show. This photographer was a long-time EDM fan but newer to music journalism; I’m a long-time journalist but newer to the world of EDM. This proved to be a good pairing, as she gave me insight on what to expect from the show and in exchange I offered tips on camera settings and photo editing.
There were three opening acts for the show, and all three were Philadelphia locals: Alien Fuel, Brainrack, and Shizz Lo. By the time Brainrack’s set began the room was far from full but as with any concert, it appeared those who arrived earliest were most excited to be there. While those in attendance didn’t seem familiar with Brainrack’s original mixes, that didn’t stop them from dancing. Many were wearing Halloween costumes, ranging from a squid to a Power Ranger to Pikachu, with others wearing multi-color faux fur coats and various glitter accessories. Based on the crowd’s attire alone, it could be any Halloween party but it could also be any EDM show, as these type of events tend to feature plenty of costumes and crazy outfits (or so I’m told- I’m still new here).
The crowd has continued to grow and it appears not a single person has taken a break from dancing. Towards the end of Shizz Lo’s set, one fan approaches me to ask if I’m “for” or “against” glitter. When I tell her I’m for it, she offers to “bless” me, instructing me to put my arms out “like Jesus”, then shaking purple glitter over my head, chest, and arms. Just as I’ve accepted my glitter-covered fate, I check the time on my phone and realize there’s only a few minutes before Slushii is set to perform.
I head over to meet the tour manager, who escorts me and my fellow photographer backstage. Slushii enters a few minutes before his set is to begin, and he’s surrounded by friends. As the music begins and the opening notes of “Into The Light” are played, a grin is spreading on the DJ’s face and fans are chanting his name in the crowd. “Into The Light” concludes by asking, “Don’t you wish you could go back?” and Slushii turns and smiles at his friends once more- as if poised for a funny Snapchat- before heading on stage.
Slushii has a way of performing that allows him to be the center of attention without commanding the room: there’s no declaration that everyone must pay attention, they simply choose to do so and are then completely enthralled. Smoke goes off three times in the first five minutes of his set and at regular intervals throughout, but the production is on a much smaller scale than a festival, allowing the music to be the focus of the performance.
Much of Slushii’s set is songs from his debut album Out of Light, an emotional dance record that provides an approachable and accessible introduction the genre. In between album cuts he drops other fan favorites, like “Luv U Need U” and his remix of Marshmello and Khalid’s “Silence.” Unlike many of his peers who source vocals from various guests, Slushii sings on his tracks and even with the ever-present pitch-shifting, there’s an undeniable notion that he is being himself.
Slushii will be releasing a new track this Friday, November 10. Be sure to stay tuned to Substream for updates on all things Slushii.