The Observatory in Santa Ana opened its doors Sunday for its third show of the day, as electronic dance music fans were treated to a display of musical artistry through the digital expertise of DJ and producer Chris Emerson, better known by his stage name What So Not. The artist recently released his debut album “Not All The Beautiful Things” early last month.
Formerly a duo with fellow Australian record producer Harley Streten, better known as Flume, What So Not is on the United States leg of his Beautiful Things World Tour.
Previous stops included the Northern Lights Festival in Canada, Lollapalooza in Brazil and the legendary Ultra Music Festival in Miami.
The musician has been producing and DJing since 2011, coming out with festival-favorite tracks like “Jaguar” and “High You Are,” while also collaborating with top producers and DJs like Skrillex, Dillon Francis and RL Grime.
The short but lively two-hour show began with a pleasant surprise in the form of Los Angeles’ very own Duckwrth.
The hip-hop artist came out jumping, getting intimate with the crowd as he displayed a whirlwind of emotions clearly noticeable in his rapping, singing and gestures. For what it’s worth, Duckwrth eventually had to remove his T-shirt because of how much he began to sweat from all the dancing he was taking part in.
His hype and jumpy demeanor provided vibes and sounds, glaringly reminiscent of André 3000 from Outkast.
“I definitely listened to a lot of Outkast when I was younger, so I definitely see how that can end up in my subconscious. But, I don’t know, it’s probably just kindred spirit,” Duckwrth said.
Joined by his on-stage crew, which consisted of a bass player and DJ, this was Duckwrth’s fourth show opening for What So Not, a warmup for his Coachella performance this weekend.
“It’s been getting predominantly better and better every single show. The first one was sketchy. Santa Ana was f—ing insane,” Duckwrth said.
After a short intermission, it was time for What So Not to make his entrance.
A black cloth, which was covering some sort of sculpture during Duckwrth’s set, was pulled off to reveal a horse, an exact copy of the one featured on the cover of What So Not’s album.
Like almost any electronic music dance concert, what stood out was the combination of sound quality mixed and stage production, including strobe LED lights and overall design of the DJ’s platform for which he or she is performing on.
What So Not’s setup clearly looked like it took some time and heavy lifting to build and transport. Along with the familiar album cover horse, What So Not’s podium was held up by two monster truck-type tires on each side, all beneath an electronic drum set and laptop.
The stage stood out as What So Not played all the percussions to each song, distinguishable from the normal turntables many are used to seeing DJs perform on.
The drums gave What So Not’s performance a familiar feel, similar to how electronic music duo Odesza and Disclosure integrate electronic instruments into their live sets.
Overall, the combination of residual excitement from Duckwrth’s opening act and What So Not’s mind-blowing stage production made the Santa Ana stop of the Beautiful Things World Tour worthwhile.
What So Not’s recognizable music and his use of an electronic drum set makes him stand out above a conventional turntable-playing DJ. Despite a steep $40 price point, the 11 p.m. start time on a Sunday night was a stellar opportunity for those clawing to salvage the rest of their weekend with the presence of a veteran DJ and above-average visuals.