Putting all of the pieces together, RJD2 sets the bar for how other electronic artists should perform live

RJD2By Josh Herwitt //

RJD2 with Nocando //
Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles
April 8th, 2016 //

With CD sales now a thing of the past and the music business becoming increasingly reliant on touring, it has been a challenge for longtime electronic artists to stand out from the rest of today’s EDM-era acts who have taken the industry by storm.

Ramble Jon Krohn, or RJD2 as his many know him, is no exception to this (read our interview with him here). The 39-year-old DJ/producer has been making beats since he was a teenager, culminating in 2007 when his track “A Beautiful Mine” was initially licensed for the opening credits of AMC’s hit TV series “Mad Men” and became known as the show’s theme song.

But Krohn first made his mark in the early 2000’s, when the digital world had yet to be fully realized. His debut album Deadringer, along with his 2004 follow-up Since We Last Spoke, played a crucial role in furthering the rise of instrumental hip-hop that turntablists like DJ Shadow and Kid Koala helped cultivate in the late 90’s. Of course, a whole lot with the way music is consumed has changed since then, and Krohn understands that as well as anyone.

That’s not the only change that Krohn has had to endure in more recent years, though. With his family back home in Columbus, Ohio, touring isn’t as easy as it once was, making it hard for him to leave his wife and son for extended periods of time. Couple that predicament with the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, and you have to wonder how Krohn has been able to remain relevant among the hoard of electronic musicians that only continues to grow day after day, year after year.

Yet, Krohn isn’t worried. If anything, his sold-out shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco this past weekend proved that his fans haven’t forgotten about him. In fact, what might have been more impressive than the capacity crowds themselves were the performances he orchestrated from start to finish.


At LA’s Teragram Ballroom last Friday, Krohn played for almost two hours, reminding us how electronic shows used to be conducted before technology spread its influence. There were no laptops or fist pumps. There were no visualizers, lasers or special effects. For once, this wasn’t another cookie-cutter EDM show that’s sadly become the norm.

Instead, after briefly unveiling his spinning, wireless MPC remote, Krohn went to work on his turntables, constantly maneuvering between them while putting his cratedigging prowess on display. But with a drum kit and other instruments to the left of his DJ rig, it was evident that he wouldn’t be going at it alone the entire set.

After properly warming up the room, Krohn invited bassist Khari Mateen and drummer Chuck Palmer onstage, as the three-piece grooved to some older RJD2 material before it was time for Krohn to introduce two more special guests. While Mateen and Palmer added an element of live instrumentation that’s so often missing at electronic shows these days, vocalist Jordan Brown and Atlanta-born/Philly-bred rapper STS, whom Krohn made a collaborative album with last year, took the audience engagement to another level.

With Brown in the house despite dealing with an apparent injury (a pair of crutches made that clear), it was no surprise that Krohn dropped “Peace of What” as the sound of strings from the track’s opening bars elicited cheers almost immediately. Inspired by “Peace Is Not the Word to Play” from Canadian/American hip-hop group Main Source, the soulful single comes from Krohn’s new RJD2 album Dame Fortune, which he released late last month and has received mostly favorable reviews from the major media outlets at this point.

That said, STS’ appearance may have been the bigger surprise of the night. From his onstage charisma to his unique flow, he brought an extra layer of depth to the show, one that fit well with Krohn’s overall game plan. Sure, everything RJD2 may still start and finish with Krohn, much like how things unfolded at the Teragram Ballroom, but after more than 20 years as an electronic artist, his ability to curate a dynamic, yet cohesive performance is what puts him in a class of his own.

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