Kaytranada at SAT was a sick party

This show was a welcome and well-deserved coronation for the local beatmaker and DJ, who’s spent 2014 making his mark around the world. See our report & photos.

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Kaytranada. Photos by Cindy Lopez (scroll down for the full gallery)
It’s not uncommon for a touring artist’s triumphant hometown gig to feature a rapturous sing-along with the crowd, but the one that occurred during Kaytranada’s sold out show at SAT on Saturday was different.

Kaytra, aka RTLien electronic music producer Kevin Celestin, is a beatmaker and DJ, so the hit that incited the sweaty audience to sing aloud sometime after 2 a.m. wasn’t one with a rousing chorus or call-and-response. It was “At All,” a song originating from Soundcloud with only a chopped up, wordless sample for a lead vocal. The crowd vocalized it nonetheless, surprising the performer, who took a second from his DJing post to whip out his phone and capture the moment for social media posterity.

The R&B and synth soul-inspired producer hasn’t exactly been AWOL on a local scale this year — he delivered a memorable set at Osheaga and ushered in the New Year here — but 2014 has seen him make significant strides abroad. He’s signed with famed U.K. imprint XL Recordings, and should be releasing an album with them before the year is out. In the meantime, he dropped a free mixtape, produced a beat for Mobb Deep, and there’s a picture floating around the web of him and Alicia Keys in the studio.

An expanding CV doesn’t always translate into more local visibility, so while the sold out SAT set didn’t come as a complete surprise, it was a welcome and well-deserved coronation. It also marked a two-year voyage from opening for Araabmuzik at the SAT to headlining the venue — a fact he proudly noted on stage.

His two-hour set, which began at 1 a.m. and finished at last call, was unofficially split into three parts: warm, synth grooves to start; hip hop bangers and a brief Celestics interlude with his brother Louis-Philippe in the middle; and a more conventional mix of hits to close. Kaytra was elevated from the stage, while visuals of his face being compressed by hands, as well as doughnuts and tanks, were shown on the screen below him.

The young crowd danced in close quarters throughout and enjoyed all three of the set’s loose acts. There were undoubtedly a number of broad hip hop fans there, the types who could rap along to both Missy Elliot’s “Sock It 2 Me” and Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot N***a.” The night’s opener, Chicago rapper Vic Mensa, also came out to perform the Kaytra-produced “Wimme Nah.”

His remixes also drew positive responses, especially a pair of Janet Jackson tunes he’s unofficially reworked: “If” and Busta Rhymes collab “What’s It Gonna Be?!” For the vets in attendance, he played the catchy piano loop of Paul Johnson’s late ’90s house hit “Get Get Down” in the early part of the set.

One can never go wrong with hip hop and R&B classics from the ’90s (he dropped his Creepier remix of TLC’s “Creep” at 2:55 a.m.), but Kaytranada’s set was ultimately more in line with his original laptop compositions. In a live setting, the soul influences, synth lines and light grooves made for a more easygoing set.

Understandably, Kaytra seemed more at ease when the crowd wasn’t getting too riled up. Whenever someone climbed on the stage in order to dive back into the audience, he stopped the set momentarily to chide the person until they returned to the floor. This was, after all, his moment. ■
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