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Afrojack at Pacha NYC: How the Jacked crew had a change of heart

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It was our first night at Pacha NYC since DJs got a heartfelt but necessary reality check about the state of the industry, and we were anxious to see how one of our favorite crews would respond. Just last month, the Jacked family closed out EDC NY with their own tent (and an afterparty at Pacha for good measure). So with a familiar taste in the mouths of New Yorkers, the pressure was on for Afrojack and friends to deliver something completely different.

Upon entering the dance-mecca on 46th street on Manhattan’s West side, the vibes were noticeably special. Afrojack, along with Quintino and R3hab, would throw a party for New York that was not only memorable for the crowd, but a huge relief for dance music hopefuls. From start to finish, the Jacked boys proved their versatility and quickly separated themselves from the play-pressing pack.

The first hint of changes began before midnight, when Quintino took the decks at just 11PM.We’re used to Quintino shutting down parties late into the night and early into the mornings, so this was the first sign of changes in store. Last time Quintino spun Pacha, he dropped his edgy set between the hours of 6 and 8AM; Thursday night, however, he shook up his arsenal to open for his buddy Nick.

What was so great about this switch was the late night vibe during the early hours. Openers usually provide less rambunctious sets with easily identifiable tracks, but Quintino was not the normal opener. The crowd at Pacha was warm to his beats, and the voices that could be heard inside the sweaty pit of dancers were curious yet pleased about the opening track selection. He dropped tons of lesser-known material, and the impossibility to identity his track list was relieving.

Quintino’s track you must know: Aerodynamic Be Strong (Quintino Bootleg)

One track we were able to identify from Quintino is his dark bootleg of “Aerodynamic” and “Be Strong.” It was the perfect balance of familiarity and edge that we could’ve hoped for early in the night.

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Around 1AM, when Quintino was wrapping things up, the restless crowd chanted for Afrojack. Van de Wall stepped into the booth with his face hidden inside his hoodie, and unanimous screams ensued. The nearly 7-foot-tall DJ removed his sweatshirt and revealed himself, responding to the crowd with an innocent “What’s up, New York?” His tone indicated that he was there for business as usual, a nonchalant reassurance that he would once again be bringing his best to the Big Apple.

His next words struck a particularly special chord with us here at DA, our readers, and the fans who were expecting something special. He let everyone in Pacha know that he would not get away with playing his usual set, but that he had something completely different planned. With that said, you can already guess that he didn’t open his set with the usual “Bangduck” intro edit, but with his banger “Rock The House” instead. He immediately moved into his remix of “Let’s Make Nasty,” a drop that works wonders on the rare nights it gets playtime.

Afrojack’s set wasn’t completely unfamiliar — but that’s not what we want. In between dropping lots of “the new shit,” he found time for classics like “Pon De Floor,” “Moombah,” and the fittingly-titled “Pacha On Acid.” The thing about most Afrojack sets is that they can start to become into a mix of bleeps, rattles, and bloops of the best kind. He likes to combine familiar vocals, and sample elements from other known tracks just to keep the crowd on their toes.

He also made surprise selections that drift from the his bleep-heavy mold. DJs have been overplaying “Atom” lately, but when Afrojack dropped it the crowd sprung to life like they were hearing it for the first time. Similarly, he dropped Swanky Tunes and Hard Rock Sofa’s future banger, “Here We Go,” but not without mixing some “Riverside” into the rage-provoker.

Sure, he played “Take Over Control” and “Can’t Stop Me,” but that didn’t take away from the fact that almost a dozen brand new tracks were the foundation for his homemade dance party. He may not have pulled a complete 180, but he certainly put in the effort to deliver a set that wasn’t identical to anything he’s previously dished out.

Afrojack’s track you must know: Montreal (Original Mix)

Some of AJ’s tunes we most love come from his Lost & Found EPs, but it is rare that we get to hear those in the midst of his compressed main stage sets. Afrojack dropped personal favorite “Montreal” from his EP, and the quirky track came as a treat to all within Pacha.

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On any given Jacked night, you would expect R3hab to start things off with Afrojack’s edit of “Sending My Love,” a tool that effectively opens his animated set with seizure-inducing sounds. But as we’ve said, this was no ordinary Jacked night. Instead, he kicked things off with an extended drumline sampled from the first 5-seconds of his “We Found Love” remix, and moved into an Arabian-style electro melody that dropped into – of course – chainsaw madness.

While R3hab’s sets bring high-energy party mode, he normally offers a selection that consists mainly of his own remixes. Thursday night, however, he gave his chainsaw the back seat but replicated that energy with rage-hits and loads of dubstep. While many weren’t very open to the dubstep selections from R3hab, it made it all more refreshing when he dropped his own material.

The biggest difference was the contrast, which we don’t often get to see from the consistent remix-maestro. Switching between pop-electro and dubstep brought a party to Pacha that was completely unexpected. Moves between his remix of “Bounce” into Skrillex’s “Rock N Roll” showed courage and maturity in R3hab as he executed with the same animation we enjoy.

R3hab’s track you must know: Knife Party – Sleaze (Original Mix)

This Knife Party track has been getting serious attention this summer, but not many have pulled it off the right way. R3hab managed to fit “Sleaze” into his electro-meets-dub concoction, so when the crowd was chanting along, it felt nothing shy of natural.

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As with his many past appearances at Pacha NYC, Afrojack holds a special place in his heart for New York. At the inaugural Electric Daisy Carnival here, he proclaimed that it was the city where he started it, and where he would finish it. Thankfully, it seems that he is laying the seeds for his legacy to continue in the Big Apple for years to come by introducing members of his Jacked family like Quintino and R3hab with an over the top energy that only he can provide.

While many DJs keep their in-production track selection under lock and key until they are perfected, Afrojack always manages to bring out a lot of new material. Perhaps this tactic is why so many of his releases have been so huge — he knows what the reaction will be before the tracks even hit Beatport. Perhaps it’s just that he loves making music and can’t wait to share it with his adoring fans. Regardless of the reasoning, one thing is clear: You can’t stop Afrojack or his Jacked family.

Jacob Schulman contributed to this report

Photo Credit: Michael Elezovic

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