Deep Dish at U Street Music Hall

In a city proud of it’s surveillance leaks and abuses, it comes as no surprise Deep Dish were heavily rumored to kick off U Street Music Hall’s 4 Year Anniversary Week. In the land of jackals and honey, the truth and its many variants leak fast. Too many pieces were lining up. Deep Dish performed a surprise warm up gig in Chicago earlier in the week, Sharam’s U-Hall set had been postponed due to scheduling conflicts, the symbols in their current branding campaign were used as the design theme for the kick off night’s promotional poster, U Hall posted their ’98 Essential Mix as Friday afternoon mood music, and the fact that it would be fitting for DC underground house legends to perform at an anniversary celebration for one of DC’s most relevant underground club were all reasonable clues.

The ‘surprise’ guests were officially announced Sunday morning and thus a green light to start hard on the sacrament of this blessed day- knee deep in a baptism of margaritas before the snow made us atone. By 10 P.M. when the doors opened, the line to get in was already creeping down the block. One last storm for the season wasn’t enough to deter old fans and curious newcomers. Our pre-show bar crawl ended at Velvet Lounge with a conversation about new directions in tech and house for DC. The conversation presaged Deep Dish’s sonic explorations for the evening.

Deep Dish’s set was not nostalgic; it was not the great hits comeback tour. We were in a laboratory, subjects of their experiment. The track selection indicated a push to make up for lost time and lean into the future. Sharam and Ali were digging to reestablish and to find a fresh sound for a new live audience. Sharam’s loose grooves were tempered by a tension that transitioned to Ali’s sense of structure. Sequences between house and techno, especially as we approached 3 A.M., seemed disjointed at times but not displeasing. The crowd remained in a fever pitch the duration of the set. For a new Deep Dish to be culturally relevant there must be preliminary trials, it’s part of the scientific method.

There has been a lot of speculation about the reunion. The cynics argue that Sharam and Ali’s solo projects have lost steam and now they’re jumping on the opportunity to cash in on the Deep Dish brand. I’d argue differently. They’re back to raise the bar both for the city and house in general. The punch-you-in-the-dick aesthetics of current EDM is growing tiresome, and Deep Dish see an opportunity to push the art form forward. Always adept at the art of recorded mixes, their Essential Mix on 3/21 is a testament to this new seriousness. Two surprise sets and a chrome-finished Essential Mix later, the machine has been warmed up and finely tuned. I look to the show in Miami as the starting gun it has been billed to be.

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