Walking into Mission Ballroom on Saturday night was not a far reach from entering the depths of the familiar and ethereal underground rave. On his first Colorado “Dangerous Waters Tour” date, Sam Vogel, the 26-year-old producer behind Jauz, attracts The Wise and The Wicked– the title of his last 2018 album and the quintessential description of the light-gloved, colored-hair and wig-topped crowd. Deemed the “shark daddy” on Twitter, the artist has built his name on Jaws movie references. His shark identity ranges from track titles to production aesthetics that suggest the aggressiveness of the sea-dwelling carnivore with the appeal of underground, all-encompassing bass that’s more welcoming than menacing.
Mission Ballroom’s debut in August inaugurated a Denver venue with a warehouse atmosphere and the vastness of bass-reverberating high ceilings. The wrap-around balconies are suggestive of stadium charm and resonant of EDM icon-venues like The Shrine of Los Angeles. Mission Ballroom seems divinely designed for a performance like Jauz, as the rave scene is where the producer makes his home. He’s been blending sub-genres of the electronic landscape his entire career. Attempting to pinpoint each sub-genre is the equivalent of trying to separate the seven seas and not letting them mix together. A DJ like Juaz is not distracted by the frivolities of putting each genre into a box — his sound is boldly diluted all together into one big ocean.
The mid-tempo track “Feel the Volume” is exemplary of combining a house BPM with slow buildups of dubstep dizzying drops, while collaborations with DJs like Diplo, Zeds Dead and Skrillex demonstrate just how malleable and pioneering Vogel’s sound can be.
With the release of his latest EP Dangerous Waters and US tour of the same name, Vogel returns to live performance with equal voracity and momentum as tours from the past. However, his tour set proved extensively transformed in comparison with his day-time festival performances or even nightclub sets. With an audience at Mission Ballroom clothed in Jauz apparel or other EDM fashion staples like scarves and flags, it’s clear that Vogel had designed the stage production for fans of his work and not an audience that wants uncomplicated EDM remixes to radio hip-hop and pop hits.
The openers are as essential to the groundwork of Vogel’s production as his own set. Bringing on Tynan and Habstrakt proved strategic in that Tynan opened with a dubstep and bass-heavy set while Habstrakt followed in a house-only manner. Habstrakt — a frequent collaborator with Jauz on house tracks — is notably left out of Vogel’s “Bite This” label, which launched in 2017. Yet, the French DJ had a distinctive performance, leaving the audience to “whoop” twice in between each drum and bass note in a true house show fashion. The high-energy crowd was joyous and afloat with the openers’ diversity of sound while folding fans waved smoke towards the ceiling disco ball high above, and the standing room became less and less available.
A 20-minute intermission followed, bright lights filling the venue, alluding to the gargantuan LED shark fin still left in shadows with the suggestion of an approaching mountain peak. When Vogel entered, the shark fin flashed upon awakening, and his stage lifted and perched atop it like the summiting of a Colorado fourteener. Bass filtered through the immense space as his opening track combined Tynan and Habstrakt’s sub-genre focused performances into a seamless conglomeration of all elements.
Vogel covered all bases, with an emphasis on bass. Playing until one a.m., the shark fin rotated around the elevated, circular stage in tune with throwback songs to crowd-favorites like “Feel the Volume” and “Gassed Up.” It would seem songs were unidentifiable for the lining of his bass-house mixture that stitched one dubstep beat to another. It was well-deserved breaks like a Lil Peep tribute and the viral sensation “Trampoline” remix that scattered sing-along lyrics to a crowd present for his sound-mixing performance and not his identifiable singles. From high up in the balconies, the bobbing heads were buoys in Jauz’s turbulent sea of bass.
Vogel frequently addressed his fans by emphasizing how he’s looked forward to the Denver show. It’s clear he is a true fan to the genre himself, stating “I’m so EDM.” From moving to Los Angeles in 2012, the California-native producer has made leaps and bounds throughout the decade in becoming essential to festival lineups and club residencies. However, the highlight of Vogel’s fourth tour date was undeniably his enthusiastic appointment of Denver as “the bass capital of the world.” With valiant cheers of approval from the Mission Ballroom audience, Vogel admitted, “I’m not one of the Colorado bass guys…but you guys always show up.” While he might not make the lineup of Denver-based DJs that continue to sell out venues for bass sets, the Los Angeles producer offers his appreciation of the warm welcome bass heads give when he comes to town.