Lab Group is a collective prone to constant evolution. They have persisted since the death of founding member CharlestheFirst and since the recent departure of another cofounder, Supertask. Despite these challenges, the ever-shifting group know how to hold it down for their fans.

On February 23rd, Lab Group took to Mission Ballroom in Denver for their biggest headlining date yet. They showed off the sounds of their new LP, Lab Group II, a softer, more vocal-focused project. The new Lab Group roster features founder Potions alongside Player Dave, tiedye ky, Ruku, and others. At Mission, this group proved that they know what this project is about: friends making music together and bringing the house down while they do it.

Fans raise their hands to visuals of the Lab Group microscope logo

Setting the Stage

From start to finish, this lineup represented the new direction shown on Lab Group II: vibey, chilled-out beats. With acts like Jacques Greene and Clams Casino, none of the openers came from the dubstep world. 

First up was Lilah, a project from producer Vxltures that debuted not long ago at The Mishawaka. He presented a multi-genre set full of tracks from his debut LP, Faces in the Water. A standout moment from Lilah was “Wildflower” featuring January. 

Next up was OAKK, a producer known for his expansive approach to bass subgenres. Before his set, OAKK tweeted that he would be “playing warm and feeler tracks to set the mood.” The mood was certainly set after his array of R&B vocals and future garage beats. OAKK also played out some of his top tracks, like “Moving On” and “Butter & Gold” (both of which are mood-setters in their own right).  

Beyond Bass Music

One of the most surprising acts on the bill was Jacques Greene. At first glance, this Canadian deep house and breaks producer may seem out of place as an opener for a dubstep collective like Lab Group. The energy he brought to Mission fit perfectly with the rest of the evening, however.

Jacques Greene shelled heavy UK garage beats alongside well-loved bangers like Joy Orbison’s latest “flight fm” and Logic1000’s edit of Moderat’s “COPY COPY.” To a visual background of early Internet ephemera, Jacques also explored more relaxed energy — a highlight being his “High & Choking” remix.  

Finally, for direct support, Lab Group brought a legendary act: the early cloud rap pioneer Clams Casino. This set was a real treat as Clams Casino showed off his hip-hop beats that defined a generation in the early 2010s.

He indulged in his most famous rap productions like “Norf Norf” by Vince Staples and “Sandman” by A$AP Rocky. Much of the crowd rapped along, full of nostalgia for this era of hip-hop.

To close out the set, Clams Casino played his best solo work: “Illest Alive” and the iconic “I’m God.” With his hip-hop ethos and immaculate production, one can imagine that Clams Casino was a direct source of inspiration for Lab Group in its earliest days.

Clams Casino performs as direct support for Lab Group
Famed hip-hop producer, Clams Casino

A New Lab Group

In the audience, there was some uncertainty about who exactly would grace the stage when it was time for Lab Group’s set. The crowd got their answer as Potions, Player Dave, and tiedye ky took their places across two separate DJ tables.

This trio is the perfect choice to continue the Lab Group legacy, as they were all featured in the first project, Lab Group I. They jumped straight into “Zoom In,” a co-production of tiedye ky and Potions from their new album. 

While the group started with their fresh material, they quickly pivoted to pay their respects to CharlestheFirst and the bangers that brought Lab Group to stardom. The crowd had a massive reaction to classics like “Banshee” and “Old Ways” (which was mashed up with a new beat). In this first section, Lab Group was on a mission to honor Charles’ beloved vocals in new production contexts.

By kicking things off with the fan favorites, Lab Group got the heavy hitters out of the way early so they could delve into new material. This section included live vocals from Ruku on two of the group’s most mellow songs, “Holy” and “Dripping.” Tiedye ky also brought an impressive vocal performance for “Lost Me.” 

The latest releases from Lab Group II weren’t the only ways that the group showed off their new sound. They also explored unreleased material and tracks from other producers in a variety of unexpected genres.

For example, they spun Kelbin’s remix of “Cloudy” by Daphni. It’s difficult to imagine a euphoric house beat like that being played in a Lab Group set several years ago. As the group’s core roster evolves, so too do Lab Group bravely push their core sound forward. 

Closing on Two High Notes

Without a doubt, the standout track from Lab Group II is Player Dave’s “HD” with rapper JAWNZA. They saved this unapologetic hip-hop track for the very end. JAWNZA came on stage for an explosive performance as the crowd bounced along to the memorable bars of “HD.” 

It felt like Lab Group was going to end with a high-energy banger, but they had one more trick up their sleeves. In a heartwarming moment, tiedye ky sat at the grand piano to perform a stripped-back version of CharlestheFirst’s “Figured U Out.”

This version was first debuted at CharlestheFirst’s memorial at Mission Ballroom, so it was full of emotion this time, too. It’s clear that even though Lab Group is changing, they won’t forget their roots or the previous members that got them to where they are. 

Photos by Grey Scheinman

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