BERKELEY — Ramble Jon Krohn didn’t remember the last time he performed in Berkeley as RJD2, but he has a connection to the East Bay all the same. At his show at Cornerstone Friday, Krohn recalled living near Berkeley in the mid-90s, DJing and working at a coffee shop.
“The Bay Area is near and dear to my heart,” RJD2 said in a break in the action. “I may not have been in Berkeley for a while, but thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me for 20 years.”
RJD2’s performance was best-viewed from one of the club’s balconies, where it was entertaining to see him running back and forth between no fewer than four turntables, processors, samplers and drum machines. At any moment, he could be trying to pull a record from his crate at the back of the stage, replace another one, and man the decks with his other hand.
The set included cuts from throughout his 18-year discography, including 2016’s Dame Fortune and 2002 debut Deadringer, with “Smoke & Mirrors” being a mid-set highlight. “Her Majesty’s Socialist Request,” from 2013, and 2006’s “Hand Me Downs” also made an appearance.
Even more intriguingly was how Krohn took the stage, in a welder-style or Kylo-Ren-like mask covering his face and a sampler strapped to his lower torso, like a low-slung guitar, on which he more or less riffed; controlling bass, beats and melody with the swift pushing of some buttons.
Oakland jazz-electronica fusion band Ghost & the City opened Friday show with a set of funky and experimental compositions. Their set included the smooth “Steady Trippin,” and the slower but equally groovy “Living Room,” which had some killer trumpet soloing by Ross Eustis. Multi-instrumentalist Ash Maynor held down the melodies on the keyboard, while Kia Fay’s caramel-smooth vocals cut through the arrangements. The band finished with the bittersweet and melancholic “N.W.T.A.”
Fay and co. were followed by New York production duo MEMBA (Ishaan Chaudhary and Will Curry) who blended a wide swath of more modern music with Middle Eastern and even Bollywood influences. The duo, making its first Bay Area appearance, started by transitioning from Alice Merton’s “Funny Business” to M.I.A. (for whom Merton named her record label). Other cuts included Kelis’ “Milkshake” and Tame Impala’s “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.”
— Roman Gokhman