When I was 12 years old, my life mostly consisted of going to school, sports practices, and playing Minecraft late into the evening, often accompanied by Pandora–curated electronic music. Yes, I’ll out myself here—I loved Minecraft. I played it often and for hours at a time, much to the bewilderment of my own dad who thought I was cooped up playing Minesweeper for that long. Imagine the peculiar sense of relief he must have felt when he found out I wasn’t.
Anyway, my adolescent Minecraft addiction isn’t really the point here, but I digress. Instead, let’s talk about one of the musicians I often associate with that period in my life: Deadmau5 (and, I might add, he too was a vocal Minecraft player, with a coveted, one–of–a–kind character model). Alongside other EDM contemporaries like Skrillex or Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5 truly occupies a distinct niche in recent cultural memory, along a similar vein to Ultra, cat memes, Tumblr, and leetspeak. When I heard about his concert this January at The Met, I knew I had to cover it. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to revel in middle school nostalgia.
The concert started with an opening act from Jay Robinson, who was the sort of DJ you might expect to hear at some club in the UK on a Wednesday night. His music was somewhat aggressive yet danceable, a mix of his original work and samplings from artists like Valentino Khan. While not a fan of his brand of hard–hitting bass, I will say the crowd did make the whole experience altogether more lively, dramatically dancing with bass drops and flashing lights.
While waiting for Deadmau5 to come on, the lights came up to reveal a monolithic cube, which only strengthened my associations of the artist with a certain aforementioned game. Then the lights went down, the cube lit up, and suddenly a Fortnite–adjacent videogame landing sequence played on the screens of the monolith. I guess Deadmau5 had moved on from Minecraft.
The visuals were absolutely astounding. Deadmau5 sat inside his cube while lasers, flashes, and walls of LCDs captivated the starry–eyed. At first, I even joked to my friend that he was holding the concert remotely from the comfort of his home. And then the cube moved. It gyrated, tilting left, right, and then forward towards the crowd before spinning behind him to reveal the DJ perched inside, iconic mouse head and all.
After that, the visuals continued to dominate the show. Some were abstract and beguiling, with wave–like forms cascading across the screen. Others seemed to be more thematic, like when a giant all–seeing eye glared back at the audience. And then there were others with memes, middle fingers, and grotesque animal figures adorning Deadmau5’s cartoonish head, reminding me of a long–forgotten, sort of childish sense of irreverence popular on the internet back in middle school. They also seemed to reveal a bit of Deadmau5’s own personality—funnier images for songs that, at this point, are kind of memes in and of themselves, and more artistic ones for his more avant–garde house sets. Deadmau5, while a famous DJ, is clearly the type of person able to make fun of himself, and is frankly just a bit of a nerd.
His music ran a wide gamut as well. From the synth–heavy “Infra Turbo Pigcart Racer” plucked straight from a video game, to the ambient and dramatic “coelacanth (ov)”, and the more techno–leaning “Avaritia,” Deadmau5 is really one of the only DJs out there that can do it all. His ability to incorporate such vast reaches of electronic music in the same show really surprised me, although that probably would have been expected by somebody who actually kept up with his new releases.
While taking a nostalgia–riddled trip back to middle school would probably cause most, myself included, to cringe, I ended up somehow delighted to reminisce about that time while rediscovering Deadmau5. It was now all memes, old hobbies, familiar sounds—almost like an old friend I had gotten back in touch with. Somehow, Deadmau5 had made it all funny, reminding me of what I was like back when I maybe took myself a bit less seriously.