Aside from hosting visiting scholars and alumni reunions, Anna Head Alumnae Hall proved itself a perfect venue for turning up. Between the thundering bass, melodious instrumentals and catchy hooks, Hotel Garuda brought to life that kaleidoscopic dreamscape that so many EDM artists inhabit, extending a hand to anybody that wanted to dance down the rabbit hole.
Hotel Garuda, comprised of the DJs Manila Killa and Candle Weather, reminded the crowd Friday night that EDM is more than dancing: it’s moving to the rhythm of a vivid, alternate reality forgotten under the drudgery of life’s banalities. Hotel Garuda not-so-gently hinted to concertgoers that this realm is alive and well, as long as they’re searching for it.
Throughout the night, Manila Killa’s tropical, downtempo style was met with the brooding and hypnotic ripples of Candle Weather; like black ink billowing in water, the resulting mixture of their individual styles was mesmerizing. Beginning with more lo-fi remixes like “Feels,” Hotel Garuda showed restraint in its gradual build-up, crisp beat and Kiiara’s soft but cold vocals gliding over a glittering piano. Faces etched with focus, the duo stepped up to the controller and took turns manipulating the song, submerging Anna Head in a reservoir of shadowy sounds with cool precision.
With the audience warmed up, light, infectious fingersnaps bloomed into the thumping bass of “Smoke Signals.” The distant vocals and chorus laid over the relentless beat offered a sound that remained calm on the surface but swirled with a stormy aggression underneath. As the song plunged into the drop, a riff of one of the duo’s signature sounds, like a bass guitar strummed underwater, surged forward and launched the crowd into an unapologetic reverie.
Hotel Garuda’s tendency for drops emphasizing pounding bass with minimal, understated instrumentality speaks to its unequivocal musical integrity. It rejects the pop-friendly trends and tiresome tropes of bigger EDM acts in favor of a dark, purposeful rawness. Remixed songs like “Fakin’ It” have melancholic, lavish lyrics self-aware of their unsustainable grandeur, but Hotel Garuda isn’t fatalistic. It just wants to connect to listeners in a way that isn’t the typical one-night stand anthem.
That’s not to say it’s standoffish. As the concert continued, Hotel Garuda switched it up with crowd pleasers by Porter Robinson and M83. The biggest surprise, however, was how well Hotel Garuda understood its college-aged audience by launching into party favorites like D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli.” Lil Yachty’s sing-song voice serenaded the hall and the atmosphere visibly relaxed; gone was the rave-like electricity of the venue, replaced with a light-hearted looseness.
Nor did Hotel Garuda lack a sense of humor. In the second half of the show, Rich Chigga’s deep, growling voice spit bars from his breakout hit, “Dat $tick.” Hotel Garuda knew how to pace its dynamic performance, offering these hip-hop interludes as pockets of oxygen in between long dives of uninterrupted dancing.
Hotel Garuda closed its set with its latest single “Fixed on You,” featuring the Swedish alt-pop singer Violet Days, as a reminder to the audience that this strange world wasn’t permanent. Its lyrics jolted the concertgoers awake from their dance-induced dream, with Violet Day singing, perhaps ironically, “I just want that cool cool / James Dean blues / Smoking on a cigarette / Smoke and mirrors all around you.” And even though it was all ultimately smoke and mirrors, Hotel Garuda brought the audience back to the surface of reality with the reminder that if they ever want to see the other side again, they’ll know where to find it.
Contact Kelvin Mak at [email protected].