Published Oct 22, 2015Depending on what musical circles you travel in, Ryan Hemsworth might be the most well-known and acclaimed artist to emerge from Halifax in years. Yet because he's built his success online, he's bypassed many of the channels that would make him more of a household name, even in his original hometown. It's why, even with fans on Twitter, Soundcloud and other channels watching his every digital move, he's able to call his highly successful curation project "Secret Songs": just because he's sharing tracks from emerging producers and DJs with thousands of followers doesn't mean they're not still secrets to most.
What's not a secret is how Hemsworth's fans react to his brand of constantly shifting, ADD electro jams. They crowded to the front of Olympic Hall's stage for Wednesday night's (October 21) showcase-ending set, and from my vantage point the keeners skewed far more male than during the previous acts of the night. As I watched the crowd mosh, rave and groove to the varying sounds of Hemsworth's diverse performance, I couldn't help but notice how much more reactive the crowd was when Hemsworth's beats moved away from dance music's four-on-the-floor foundation. By varying rhythms and tempos, he created harder shifts and edges, ones that encompass different reference points than are typical of pop and dance.
Hemsworth's omnivorous sensibility extended into his choice of remixes, including Lorde's "Ribs," Drake and Future's "Big Rings" and Blink-182's "Feeling This." His take on Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen" was the one moment when Hemsworth seemed to fully embrace pop release, but the more modest constraint of his own tracks, like "Snow in Newark" and "One for Me," was satisfying on its own terms. The set's jitteriness was slightly discombobulating, but it was nothing if not confidently performed.