The Juan MacLean (DJ Set)

Hifi Club, Calgary AB, November 28

The Juan MacLean (DJ Set)Hifi Club, Calgary AB, November 28
Photo: Chris Gee
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It's not uncommon for bands touring across the prairies to get stuck inside of a freak snowstorm and have to cancel a few shows. While Cold Specks was forced to postpone their Edmonton and Calgary dates last week in the midst of Alberta's annual November whiteout, DFA Records' John MacLean and Nancy Whang of the Juan MacLean made it safely to the Hifi Club in Calgary's downtown core for their lone, one-off Canadian appearance this winter.

Since James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem farewell, the Juan MacLean are now arguably DFA Records' flagship band. Their third full-length studio album (and first in five years), In A Dream, is the duo's most cohesive work, a balance between swelling club beats and DFA's signature punk-conscious electro-disco that still sounds like a true collaboration between MacLean's euphoric production and Whang's arrival as a full-time frontwoman. Despite not performing as as band in Calgary, the New York-based duo's DJ presence in the tiny club felt massive given their credentials and influence in the indie electronic world.

After a few local DJs spun tracks to a mostly empty room, a real audience started to take shape by the time Nancy Whang quietly assumed her spot at the decks. It was a little over halfway through her set of disco funk, with Latin influences, before the crowd defrosted and started to move around. Whang isn't a flashy DJ, but her track selections were pleasantly danceable with seamless transitions that elevated in energy in time for MacLean's appearance on stage.

By 1 a.m., the crowd at Hifi Club was decently sized, liquored up, and had started to break a sweat. Selecting from the shared box of vinyl the two brought with them, MacLean's set was house-heavy and pushed the vibe into full-on party mode. A few choice cuts from his remix repertoire were thrown in, including an extended version of "A Simple Design," the second single from In A Dream. MacLean fed off the energy of the devoted dancers by pumping out highly infectious grooves, but his set seemed to get uncomfortably bass-heavy and less interesting as the night progressed. Based on his recordings, MacLean is a much more intriguing producer than he is a DJ, but the club was still a great place to be to beat the cold and dance the night away.

MacLean and Whang are both modest, unpretentious music lovers and put on an enjoyable DJ show, but it was a little hard not to wonder what the night would've been like if the Juan MacLean put their live band together and played songs from their new album.

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