A disembodied voice heralded the opening of Datsik’s headlining set Friday night at the Midland theater with the informal greeting “What up, ninjas?”
The salutation sent more than 2,000 dancers in a frenzy that ended only when the house lights of the downtown venue went up 75 minutes later.
Datsik is a midtier electronic dance music act overseen by the Canadian producer Troy Beetles. His Japanese-themed Ninja Nation tour features a spectacular production billed as “The Shogun” and a sound system that emphasizes his bone-rattling but distortion-free “Shaolin Bass.”
The blunt force of the pulverizing din was so visceral that celebrants might have been inclined to check for deep bruises on their torsos after Friday’s show. Beetles wore an illuminated Japanese kasa hat as he stood in front of a pagoda constructed of walls of video screens. Banks of flashing lights emanating from the stage were capable of inducing addled convulsions in even the steadiest viewers.
The uninhibited writhing of fans contrasted with the absence of warmth in the robotic music. Faithful to the “wub-wub” dynamics of the mechanical form of beat-driven electronic music known as dubstep, Datsik meticulously excises funk and swing elements from his sinister sound.
It was impossible to determine if Beetles was actively manipulating his music or if he simply pressed “play” at the start of his set. Beetles’ admirers didn’t care about the source of his automated sound. Tightly packed revelers in the front half of the floor level didn’t have much room to dance. They convulsed against one another like a synchronized school of saltwater fish eluding a predator.
Beetles’ seamlessly melded snippets of dozens of original songs and selections by other composers. Dubstep connoisseurs jubilantly crossed their arms to form “X”s when “Harambe,” a popular Datsik collaboration with the producer Excision, burst from the banks of speakers. Fans sang to along with a portion of the D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty hit "Broccoli" and laughed at “Smoke Bomb,” Datsik’s smoke-friendly collusion with the rapper Snoop Dogg.
Virtual Riot, the project of the German-born producer Valentin Brunn, opened the show with 60 minutes of similarly steely beats and punishing bass-oriented music. Working as the crunk revivalist act Crizzly, the Austin, Texas-based Christopher Lee Marshall followed Virtual Riot with an hour of gleefully smutty homages to decade-old hits by Southern rappers such as Lil Jon and Waka Flocka Flame.
Bill Brownlee: @happyinbag