Australian electro wizard Hayden James ratcheted up the energy at Sonia to a literal breaking point.

10/11/18 – Sonia at the Middle East

A disco ball spun slowly from the rafters, shining purple beams onto a glittering sea of smiling, starry-eyed partygoers when Hayden James, the DJ/conductor of the evening, took the Sonia stage by surprise to help the opening act, Cakewalk, with his last song, causing the crowd to erupt in Beatlemania-esque screams. Sporting an outfit built for the workout to come, Hayden dawned a striped red windbreaker, gray sweats, and white-on-white Nike Air Force 1 sneakers. Building on this initial excitement in the room, he laid down onstage posing for selfies with the crowd, shifting the evening into full throttle.

Hayden’s level of professionalism was on prominent display as he blessed the crowd with his first song, “Just a Lover,” effortlessly managing an intricate DJ setup full of hundreds of glowing dials, switches, buttons, screens, and wires, along with shining metallic and glowing turntables. The visual experience of this onstage, glow-in-the-dark craft work was enhanced by a projected backdrop that took the audience through the universe, cutting back and forth between rotating shapes, planets, and futuristic, Tron-like ribbons of light.

Early in the set, Hayden flexed his creativity, mixing in some heavy synths to create a Stranger Things-style, 80s-inflected mix of Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa’s massive hit, “One Kiss.” While the crowd bounced, Hayden yelled out “You guys feelin’ good?” Encouraged by the positive response, looped the phrase “feelin’ good” within the song. As the words repeated, the audience yelled louder and jumped higher. Hayden had wielded some sort of DJ sorcery to harness the crowd’s palpable excitement and reverberate it back onto itself to create an echo chamber of explosive energy.

This compounding energy reached a point of spontaneous combustion halfway through the set when Hayden opened the floodgates by inviting everyone to get up on stage; the crowd literally jumped at the opportunity. As fans exploded into a furious rush, Hayden cranked up the bass and the place started shaking. Once the stage was completely full, he played the first few notes of his hit song, “Just Friends” and an end-of-the-world-level dance party broke out. People danced on amps and speakers; at one point, Hayden even started taking his own live videos, spinning around with the crowd, capturing the moment for himself as though he was also a fan in the crowd. It was an intense moment of shared elation that left the crowd and Hayden drenched in smiles and sweat.

Hayden James was a gracious performer, saying later on in the night, “I miss you guys being up here with me.” A master of creating and manipulating positive energy through sound, timing, and presence, the Hayden James experience is an electrical current worth grabbing onto.

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