Vancouver, B.C.—In the end, the home team won.
Playing to a very vocal, pro-local crowd at the Commodore Ballroom this past Saturday night, Vancouver’s own DJ Hedspin took the Red Bull Thre3style World Championship with a set that survived an apparent technical malfunction. Nonetheless, he pushed plenty of musical styles and dropped enough familiar national tidbits to endear himself to the room’s earnest “O Canada” vibe.
Beginning with Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack”—a jab certainly aimed as the evening’s other five finalists—Hedspin (aka Hedley Tuscano) blew through snippets of rock, reggae, hip-hop and trance and added a few quick nods to Canadian pop-culture figures like Russell Peters and Nardwuar the Human Serviette. (Look ’em up, Yanks.)
Reportedly, Hedspin’s Akai MPC quit mid-set, but he gracefully moved on, with neither the judges nor the crowd paying much mind. In fact, the audience did its best to fully participate, as one crazy Canuck surfed the crowd in an inflatable kayak (a la Steve Aoki), waving a Canadian flag attached to a hockey stick. Yes.
As the Thre3style competition requires that each contestant drop at least three genres in a 15-minute set, each of the six finalists was on his game with a slew of musical surprises and cinematic disses. Four of the finalists—Hedspin, France’s DJ Supa, Switzerland’s DJ Bazooka and Brazil’s Nedu Lopes—won preliminary rounds held earlier in the week at four different Vancouver venues. The remaining two finalists—USA’s Big Once and Spain’s DJ Bitcode—were entered as Wild Cards, announced the afternoon of the Final.
Judges for the title event included American hip-hop luminaries DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Young Guru, Canadian jocks Skratch Bastid and DJ Dopey, plus France’s DJ Karve—the 2010 Red Bull Thre3style World Champ.
Place & Show: Swiss jock Bazooka took second place, with an energetic set that included a confetti-cannon blast, crunching rock mashups, and enough audience support that some in the crowd thought he might win. Brazil’s Nedu Lopes, who finished second overall in 2010, took third this time with a set that included everything from buzzy techno to bossa nova.
It must be said that the Vancouver locals were, to put it mildly, rather discourteous to the American champ Big Once. Before his stage introductions at both his Friday and Saturday performances, he was booed. During his sets, some tried to heckle. But, with the spirit of a true battle jock, Big Once (aka Chicago’s Ian Osborne) gave it right back. Technically adept and artistically sharp—he cleverly used dramatic silences to accentuate his selections—Big Once earned respect from the haters, as he blazed both evenings. Closing his Finals set, he dropped the Team America theme (the jingoist satire, “America, F*** Yeah!”), playing up the appointed villain role. Take off, hosers.
Also, as a “value-added” to those who attended the Finals at Commodore Ballroom—a legendary venue that’s hosted everyone from Sammy Davis, Jr., to The Clash—Red Bull presented smashing sets from Vinyl Ritchie, DJ Nu-Mark and Z-Trip (2009 America’s Best DJ titlist). And lest we forget our established turntable heroes, we were quickly reminded why they’re true masters all.
– Jim Tremayne