When audience members on hand for Steve Aoki’s show at the Veld Music Festival in Toronto in August lifted up an excited fan in a wheelchair, the world-famous electronic dance music DJ acknowledged the fan by throwing a cake at him from the stage that splattered all over his face and clothes.
“It felt so right,” Aoki said over the phone last week from Los Angeles.
Confused? Appalled? Intrigued?
Aoki — set to perform Friday at UIC Pavilion with Pharrell Williams and Waka Flocka Flame — has made it tradition to throw a cake at one willing fan at every concert (as the YouTube video shows, the fan in Toronto was begging to “get caked”). Here, Aoki explains how to prepare for flying baked goods and his other antics in this guide to his high-energy shows.
Signs often equal cake: “It’s all about the craziest signs. Signs always grab my attention and so do girls on shoulders that are begging for it.”
Avoiding cake is easy, usually: “People in the back and far sides are safe. I never cake someone who doesn’t want to be caked — at least I try not to. Sometimes I miss my target. I’m pretty much going through the crowd making sure I find someone who wants to get caked. If you don’t want to get caked, shake your head or tell me you don’t want to get caked. It’s that easy.”
There will be crowd-rafting …: “I don’t stage-dive as much as I used to. Now I bring out an inflatable raft. A raft is much safer and easier to hold up. I love the idea because it’s more of a group thing — everyone working together, like, ‘We can’t let this person fall.’”
… but Aoki likely won’t take part: “The problem is I would get on the raft and have a hard time getting back on stage. I was DJing with Afrojack and I was out there for 10 minutes, far back. Afrojack got on the mic and said ‘We need Steve back,’ and people slowly brought me back. I have no control over it. I pick a fan to go on there instead. Once again, I want it to be people who show me their energy and how much they want it. The people who give me the most energy are the ones I’ll pick.”
No more Super Soakers: “I cut that out. That’s a great example of trial and error on stage performance props. I always want to bring new elements to the show to make it more entertaining and fun — more interactive. The Super Soakers, in theory, were a really cool idea: Everyone is hot and wants to get wet. But the streamline was too sharp and it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t spray like Champagne. I want it to be like rain drops, not a laser.”
You want to stand in the middle: “(Electronic dance music) is so powerful. It’s all about how you digest and soak in the experience. If you stand in the back, you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity. You should get right in the middle. You’ve got to go there and allow yourself to be sucked into the music and energy of the crowd. It’s better just to dive right in and get in there.”
Expect Aoki songs: “I’m playing a full Steve Aoki set this tour. I might improvise with some Dim Mak tunes (Aoki’s record label), but what you’ll experience musically is a Steve Aoki experience. I have a lot of new music (Aoki’s album, ‘Neon Future,’ comes out next year), and I have a lot of tracks that people coming to see me want to hear like ‘No Beef,’ ‘Pursuit of Happiness,’ ‘Turbulence’ and ‘Boneless,’ my latest single. It’s more of an artist set, not a DJ set.”
Neon colors are encouraged: “I’m a colorful guy and love seeing colors. Dressing up gets people into the spirit of it and ready to go dance all night long. That’s essentially what everyone comes to do.”
New tour, new toys: “The lighting and video corresponds to the vibe, energy and attitude of the songs. I work closely with the lighting and video. The video has taken time. We’ve spent weeks preparing it. It’s a very expensive process. Sometimes it’s a story that you’re watching. Sometimes it’s a story spliced with the music video. I’m bringing out some new props for this tour. They’re a little more sophisticated. I call it ‘neon future technology.’ It fuses artificial intelligence with biology. I’m creating something robotic.”
Just dance: “You’re there to express yourself and dance to the music. However you do it, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter how you look. Leave the pretentiousness at the door. (Forget) over-analyzing and let yourself go. Close your eyes and get into it. That’s pretty much what I do on stage. I don’t give a (expletive) what anyone thinks about me. I’m just vibing to the music. And I’ve heard these songs a million times.”
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When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine St.
Tickets: $24-$98 at ticketmaster.com