Show Review: DJ Qbert at The Get Down

When artists like Qbert are truly in the zone, they fly free on their chosen instrument.

Of all the moves DJ Qbert made with his hands onstage at The Get Down this past Friday night—the quick shivers that he used to produce the wiggly, chirping sounds by scratching; the rapid switches between two turntables to keep the beat and momentum of his set alive—somehow the action that delighted me most was completely involuntary.

Throughout his hourlong set, the 54-year-old turntablist would occasionally bring his right hand to his mouth, wet his fingers, and then whip his arm down to his side to wipe off the excess moisture on his hip pocket. It was a practical step to produce the right amount of friction between his hand and the record he was scratching. And considering how long he’s been performing and practicing his craft, Qbert likely doesn’t even realize he’s doing it anymore.

To these eyes, it was an emblem of his virtuosity. When artists like Qbert are truly in the zone, actions like that, or his frequent movements of the turntable’s tonearm, are second nature. It’s all about getting lost in the moment and the music so you can fly free on your chosen instrument.

When he wasn’t giving love to the heaving crowd of trainspotters (two gents in front of me kept giddily whispering to each other when they recognized a piece of music in the set) and dancers, Qbert was completely immersed, whipsawing between decks to bend breakbeats and samples culled from sources like Beastie Boys and Notorious B.I.G. to his delighted will. And while his hands and arms stayed in constant motion, his head remained mostly still with a devilish grin that relayed the sheer joy at having what, by anyone’s standards, is one of the coolest jobs in the world.

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