Korean hip hop mainstays and Amoeba Culture founding members Dynamic Duo wrapped up the U.S. leg of their 2016 North American tour with a casual convivence at The Novo by Microsoft (fka Club Nokia) in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, March 19th.
The event drew a modest sized but eager audience: a near equal mix of men and women, primarily Asian working professionals in their 20s and 30s. It was clearly a date night outing for many. The fervent fan anticipation and early-liner-uppers present at most K-music events these days were notably absent; loyalist ticket holders gathered in earnest only two hours ahead of showtime. The crowd had a coolness to it indicative of the more sedate demographic, but they warmed up the instant the music started.
Though branded Grand Carnival in honor of their latest album, the tour’s setlist featured only a few tracks off the titular album and instead pulled in deep from Choiza and Gaeko’s back catalog. This made the show more celebratory retrospection and less new album promotion, like a good evening out with old friends.
DJ Friz – Kim Jae Hwang, a veteran turntablist and one half of Amoeba Culture’s EDM group, Planet Shiver – kicked the show off right with a slick electronica set, unignorable stage presence, and biceps to spare. He commanded instant attention and universal respect with his undeniable groove mastery, and his use of George Michael’s vintage 1984 ‘Careless Whisper’ sent ripples of shock and delight through the crowd. And many a lady in the house fell in love with the DJ that night as Friz struck an improbable balance between sexy and adorable with his moves and mannerisms – the dude’s got charm, whether he knows it or not. Though he shifted into the background as the stars took the stage, the DJ remained very much a part of the whole show.
D Double stayed true to the setlist made public by Choiza a few weeks before. They opened with ‘신나? (우리가 누구?)/Who Are We?’ off their 2004 debut album Taxi Driver and were met with enthusiastic fan chants of “DYNAMIC DUO!!!” in all the right places. Both clad in casual black and clearly in their element, the boys worked the crowd through the list. Performing tracks old, new, and borrowed (primarily from producer Primary, including ‘See Through’ and ‘?’), they built a steady crescendo of adoration along the way. The ubiquitous ‘Up Town Funk’ made a surprise appearance, mixed into a few bars at the end of ‘Attendance Check’ before they segued into ‘See Through’ – a cute nod to the geography of the tour.
Throughout, Choiza’s charisma switch was flipped on and he played the on-stage flirt – pointing and waving at ladies and calling “This one is dedicated to you, girls!” in English before they launched into ‘Baaam.’ Gaeko was in the zone, bringing fire, sultriness, and a whole lot of smooth, by turns. Gaeko won extra endearment points and a whole lot of laughter when he pulled out a sheet of paper and read, in English:
“Hey, I prepared a speech for you guys tonight. I just got to LA and I love it here! I love pho, buk chang dong….In and Out, and Game of Thrones. I feel like a free man because I am in LA.”
Choiza interrupted: “Me too!”
“But don’t tell my wife, please…PLEASE! This is fxxking amazing! I love you guys! I love this city! And I love Kendrick Lamar, Venice Beach – no [sic] Bitch, BEACH- and KTown, and Game of Thrones! Thank you very much!”
Peak crowd frenzy struck appropriately during the finale: ‘Fireworks’ (off their 2009 album Band of Dynamic Brothers) – so much jumping, the house floor was literally quaking. Entreaties for “EN-CORE” were met with two bonus songs. First came ‘Johnny’ – Primary’s 2012 single/OST for the feature film Over My Dead Body. The tech crew killed the stage lights and projection screen, and DD asked the audience shine some good old fashioned concert love light with their handphones. The crowd happily obliged and sang their hearts out, creating perhaps the most magical moment of the night. Then came ‘Friday Night’ -a 2011 autotuned ruckus- for the final closer, and Gaeko and Choiza took time to toss t-shirts and snapbacks into the crowd. They made DJ Friz take the DJ equivalent of a bow before taking their own curtain call when the music finally ended. The audience, now appeased by the encore, made politely and sedately for the exits.
MyMusicTaste and the crew at The Novo get mad props for running a smooth operation – the event was seamless. And Dynamic Duo and DJ Friz get huge thanks for bringing their jams to the City of Angeles. Just like old friends you don’t get to see often enough, they are welcome to come back – anytime.
Photos by Ricky Lam