Joel Thomas Zimmerman isn't just some skinny cat who likes to wear giant mouse ears. He's deadmau5, the warp-speed, progressive house/techno producer and performer who made his bones with bass-dropping, hit-making electro and a mouse head lit from within. The Canadian is among those most responsible for making electronic dance music the acronym - EDM - that all the kids could love, moving the genre up from the underground and beyond its druggy "rave" tag.
Having been quiet for a recent minute, deadmau5 has returned to the stage as the "special gue5t" on his own brief, mau5trap-label bus tour of the East Coast. Costarring like-minded producer/performers Rezz, Matt Lange, Attlas, and Steve Duda, mau5hax made its Philly stop at Rumor on Tuesday night.
First, that the mau5trap crew chose a dance club as intimate as Sansom Street's Rumor made for a dazzling event - these mechanical mice usually cheese it up in European stadiums and festivals such as Coachella, or sell out local venues such as Festival Pier.
Second, this was deadmau5 without ears and without a song-oriented set list. No anthems such as his hit "Ice Age." Rather, deadmau5's freestyle set was like watching a master musician riff through nothing but solos - lengthy and manically oscillating solos.
Fellow Canadian producer Attlas started the show with a bleak but rhythmically vibrant sound that grew richer as his set progressed. Rezz, Lange, and Duda used a similar trancelike attack during their sets.
About a half-hour in, a dude in a baseball cap and Moog T-shirt positioned himself behind a turntable/sequencer: deadmau5.
At first, deadmau5 contributed bolts of electronic white noise and a more galloping beat to the proceedings. Once on his own, however, deadmau5's sound grew more densely hypnotic, brewing a melodic storm that was all his own.
It's funny to note that deadmau5 jumped onto Twitter right before this gig to diss Kanye West for appearing to illegally download music software. Perhaps that fury was in the DJ-producer's mind as his sonic thundercloud built, shook the room, then burst into a rainstorm crescendo - a final, beat-pounding electro-aria worthy of Maria Callas.