Hamdi at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins

If you haven’t heard of Hamdi until 2023, I can’t give you grief. That was me, too, unfortunately.

Going into this Hamdi headline event at my old stomping grounds of the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins initially had me in a toss-up of emotions. It’s been close to a decade since I graduated from CSU, and many of the old venues and bars I used to enjoy are long gone.

Amid many new restaurants I no longer recognize, the Aggie remains strong (as well as Tony’s bar next door; I’m baffled to see this establishment still up). I thought about many of the memories I had in school here seeing artists new and old in the heat of my dive into the electronic music culture. Honestly, I wonder if this is still possible for kids here these days.

I’m rambling now; we’re here to see Oxford-based producer and DJ Hamdi, right? I try not to mull over days when I was younger and dubstep was more wubby and soupy rather than sounding like Optimus Prime punching you repeatedly in the face.

It is why I love the Hamdi sound, though. It consists of tight, wiggly bass lines in front of beats laid back in a pocket to show profound respect for the sound of UK bassline. His deep, tangible bass design can seamlessly shift between dubstep, garage, drum and bass (DnB), and gabbercore (in case I lost you here, these are electronic music genres. I know man, some of these names get wild).

We started this Wednesday night with a handful of locals that vary in style, from experimental bass to DnB and even riddim. What caught my eye were the imposing stacks of speakers on stage facing the crowd. Or were they? This custom rig provided by Denver-based production company Koja Sound featured inverted cone construction on all the speaker crates, complete from the tweeters down to subwoofers.

In normal-speak, this means the speakers looked like they were facing the back of the venue. I was told that they were assuredly pointed the correct way, and now I was curious to hear what this rig could do for Hamdi.

The openers did a decent job in opening up with some familiar UK grooves. Alymae brought spicy, experimental beats that set up Dogan’s delectable DnB style. Reactions from the crowd were mixed at this beginning stage, especially to the faster DnB. I looked around at this point and noticed that there were many Xs on hands throughout the dance floor, which is my indication this crowd is young, and drum and bass is somehow associated with being old. I detest this; I believe DnB captures the essence of the Powerpuff Girls fight scene music. I suppose that could just mean I’m crazy.

Crowd during Hamdi @ The Aggie Theater
The crowd during Hamdi at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins.

What stood out me was the energy shift when Juulz (not to be confused with headliner DJ “Juelz”) smashed onto the stage with his big, stomping riddim sound. I personally am not a fan of the one-two beat and metallic sound of this genre, but I can’t deny how immediately the kids in the crowd lined up and began the signature headbang dance that has made it all too notorious.

For the next hour, the fans in the crowd appeared to be performing a collective lobotomy between themselves, with Juulz himself jumping off the stage to join in a hectic moshpit. You know, I honestly can’t knock it too much as a former scene kid who was living his degenerate dreams in a hot, sweaty mosh pit while Attack! Attack! played at the Warped Tour in 2009. We even did the two-step to the happy hardcore parts with the band. Yes, it was a whole thing. Who are you? My dad??

Okay, now the good part. My boy Hamdi graced the stage and I let out a bark of laughter off the bat. This English — no, Oxford-based man was wearing a CSU Rams shirt. I can’t believe it at first, to me it would be like putting Martha Stewart in a Thrasher shirt and giving her a wallet chain. It’s just not what you were expecting, but now that you see it, you can’t help but give a small chuckle. I loved seeing my alma mater on this foreign powerhouse, and then hearing the bass hit on the first tune.

Hamdi at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins
Hamdi at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins.

Whoa. The boys from Koja Sound low-key have a military-grade bomb fueling this rig’s sound power. The initial bass hit so impossibly hard with crispy, tantalizing high frequencies carrying the top end that I have to stand in aghast for a small moment. The house sound inside the Aggie has been vastly renovated since the last time I was here, so I was already floored with how different the building felt inside. This was crazy, though. This room has a capacity of 800 and this rig could easily service a small festival. 

Hamdi is the ideal DJ for this perfect storm of crazy elements; his extensive catalog was on full display. Future classics like his Zeds Dead collaboration “Criminal” and the iconic “Counting” had the entire venue with their hands in the air. Hamdi chose these moments to slide in some masterful remixes of these tracks, neither of which have been officially released.

The set was a refreshingly fluid display of how Hamdi’s bass design can anchor various beat styles to consistently shift dynamics. There was a moment where I realized he was shifting through a cycle of “Counting” style dubstep, into a UK garage track, into a gabbercore tune, and back again. DJs everywhere could take note of Hamdi’s expert command of energy in this sense.

Again, I’m not one to talk! I’ve had my head in the sand because I just learned of Hamdi this year. It’s me that needs to be paying closer attention. I suppose my excuse is I’ve been going to Ham-di (Ba-Dum-TISS! …Hey, I’m a writer, not a jokester).

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