Babes in Toyland

Vortex Music Magazine

How much sweat can $100 buy? RL Grime and Lunice make it rain at a sold-out Wonder Ballroom. Photos by Merc Photography for Red Cube and Abstract Earth Project

Leading up to RL Grime’s Wonder Ballroom show, tickets were going for $100 on Craigslist. Arriving at the venue, that price tag proved not to be the exception, but the rule. On the corner of NE Russell and Rodney, we were immediately approached by a scantily clad, barely (if even) 21-year-old offering us $100 on the spot for a ticket to that night’s show. After some back and forth, a member of our party ceded: While the show was going to be awesome, $100 for a $25 ticket was even better. My friend sold the ticket and our group, along with the girl (who could only be accurately described as a stripper) and her equally risqué-dressed partner in crime, all entered the show together.

At that moment, the atmosphere of the night’s show was reflected by the boundaries drawn between the 21-and-over crowd and the all-ages crowd, with three quarters of the venue filled by the predominantly younger crowd. This line between the “babies” in their underwear (literally), complete with multicolored fur boots, spring break tank tops, and blissed-out expressions on the faces of first-time Molly users, was, quite precisely, drawn by the stanchions. On the 21-plus side of the black rope, you had your average Portland hipster. On the other side, no more than 10 feet in front of us, a girl in a lace thong danced and groped her way through the night.

The reception to the music reflected this split as well. Lunice’s set was, quite simply, a hip-hop show. While it included a bit of genre hopping and there weren’t live emcees, at the end of the day, the set was hip-hop through and through. Lunice proceeded to intersect his work with TNGHT (his side project with Hudson Mohawke) throughout his set, as well as full tracks from Kanye’s Yeezus and other notable hip-hop selections. A member of the crowd accurately reflected, “He’s just playing his iPod up there.” This isn’t meant to be a full critique—it was fun to hear those tracks at full volume backed by massive bass—but on the 21-plus side of the rope, the reception was clearly reflected by the lack of movement amongst the crowd and the number of people going downstairs for a smoke.

The all-ages side of the venue did not have this same problem. Throughout the whole set, shirtless guys and scarcely dressed girls made it known that they loved Lunice, and in a great gesture, Lunice made it known that he loved them, remarking that Portland was his favorite city to play in.

This split, however, all but evaporated when RL Grime took the stage. Perched on a small, well-lit monument, RL Grime had the audience under his thumb from the get-go. For the next two hours, he remixed everything under the sun (half of the Yeezus album plus a few cuts from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli”, several TNGHT tracks, and the mutha fuckin’ "Circle of Life" from The Lion King, among many others) and both sides of the rope went crazy!

Armed with a full light setup, RL Grime conducted a sweat-filled masterpiece, and the full extent of the dancing that took place within the walls of the Wonder Ballroom on Saturday night is best illustrated by the raindrops that fell from above. Looking up, what I saw was nothing short of disgusting, but also quite amazing: The sheer amount of sweat pouring off of people’s bodies, on both sides of the aisle, had evaporated and condensed on the ceiling. These sweat clouds were now raining back down on us!

At one point, my buddy pointed out “the strippers up on the balcony.” I turned around, looked up and sure enough, the scantily clad woman, whom my friend had sold the ticket to, and her friend had proceeded to remove the few clothes they were previously wearing and were performing a full routine up on the balcony, to the adoration of the crowd. It was just one of those nights.

With the sweat raining down, it was a testament to the quality of the set being put on by RL Grime—and we all kept on dancing, harder and harder. Reflecting, I think that moment taught me a good lesson. As I arrived, I saw the kids in their underwear, their spring break tank tops, and their neon clothes and immediately assumed that I was out of place at this show. But RL Grime, through his absolute force of talent, made me admit that I was wrong. Sometimes you need the sparkle-wearing, pacifier-toting babies in underwear to fuel the DJ, who in turn takes the party to the next level. So, thanks everyone for sharing your sweat, it'll be a night I won't soon forget.

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