The Twitter rumors about Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s DJ set at Los Angeles club The Airliner began early Wednesday afternoon. Radiohead hasn’t played any solo shows or announced any tour plans as of yet to promote their new album The King of Limbs, but Yorke’s been playing surreptitious solo DJ sets around L.A. in past weeks, and so by 9:00 p.m. a line literally snaked around the block to get in — even though no one had confirmed that Yorke would actually show up.
But around 11 p.m., show up he did, taking to the turntables at the stage’s far left corner and commencing an eclectic mix aimed equally at both dance floor and brain. He began with an acidic minimal techno track that spawned the first of many hands-in-the-air moments for the crowd rammed into Low End’s sweaty, 350-person capacity main room.
In terms of genre, Yorke’s hour-plus set was a moving target. He moved from 4/4 thump to Burial’s skippy dubstep to Aloe Blacc’s earthy funk and beyond; in particular, he reiterated his love for the Stones Throw label’s eccentric hip-hop, with tracks from Jaylib and Madvillain proving audience sing-along favorites. (Unsurprisingly, he didn’t play any Radiohead or solo songs; the crowd didn’t seem to mind.)
Watching him spin, it was clear Yorke takes his DJing as seriously as his main gig: He worked the mixer with abandon, favoring clean, smooth blends at times, rough transitions at others; he started very seriously, concentrating on his song choice and mixing, but as the set progressed he began to loosen, displaying the trademark dance moves from his live performances as well as videos like “Lotus Flower”; he even pogo-danced like a nutter during Major Lazer’s raucous “Pon De Floordrop.” Other highlights on his set list: Squarepusher’s deconstructed two-step classic “My Red Hot Car,” and two odd Eighties New Wave jams, Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” and “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)” by Fun Boy Three.