Little Rock’s Juanita’s gets a little ‘Grimey’

RL Grime and Djemba Djemba left the crowd with a dose of trap culture shock after their sold-out show Feb. 18 at Juanita’s Mexican Cantina in Little Rock.

RL Grime announced his stop at Juanita’s back in November 2014, days within dropping his debut full-length album “VOID,” which made up the majority of his Wednesday night set. After a listen on SoundCloud, I went ahead and purchased my event ticket.

Little Rock made the cut for the second leg of his “VOID” Tour, bookended by Tulsa’s infamous Cain’s ballroom and Memphis’ Minglewood Hall. Luckily, exposure to big names such as Big Gigantic and Pretty Lights has helped the electronic music scene grow enough in central Arkansas to attract producers on the climb, such as RL Grime.

The event played out smoothly considering how many people were stuffed inside Juanita’s.

Opener Tommy Kruise served his purpose of entertaining the masses, but his production skills left you wanting something more and a bit uninspired. He held the crowd together by continually promising that Djemba Djemba and RL Grime were up next.

His mashed-up, vulgar rap lyrics felt—and sounded—like filler. My disinterest in Kruise did give me enough time to catch up with the other Conwegians who made the 40-mile drive while waiting for an expensive drink from the bar, so I’m not really complaining about his time spent on stage, just the $5 wells.

Thankfully, Djemba Djemba took the stage promptly at 9 p.m., and his set was quite the treat. He’s in his late-20s and, like Grime, is from Los Angeles. He went with the crowd’s mood, navigating through the haze of the fog machines with his original tracks until everyone was rocking in the same ebb and flow.

Thirty minutes into his set, everyone was airborne, jumping with the bass. He dropped the beat so low that it took the crowd to its knees. Even so, the crowd didn’t seem to truly focus on the show until Grime took the stage for his set, starting with the fluttering beat of “Scylla,” the third track from “VOID.”

The lights synced to the speakers vibrating his premade tracks from the “VOID” family, including “Always,” “Danger,” “Let Go,” “Core” and “Golden State.” His beats are tribal, but the sirens and horns married to electronic crescendos give “VOID” an out-of-this-world feel.

RL Grime’s shadowed figure behind his decks put off the same mysterious feel as his music, but with the first big drop, I felt confident that Juanita’s was in the best musical hands we could have hoped for. For the show’s last 15 minutes, I was able to climb the status ladder to the VIP balcony to witness the lights flashing to “Valhalla,” a Djemba/Grime collaboration, above the bobbing mass of sweaty bodies.

It was evident that everyone, including the doorman who was swaying in place, loved it as much as I did. Grime ended his set with his edit of TNGHT’s “Acrylics,” but per the crowd’s roaring request, finished with the grand finale of “Tell Me,” which is arguably his most popular track, with over 7.5 million plays on SoundCloud.

Then the lights came on, and the crowd was ushered off the dance floor and back into the reality of Arkansas. The show was a wonderful break from the social norm, and I hope Grime graces Arkansas with another visit soon.

This leg of the tour wraps up with a show on Feb. 28 in Miami, but the incredibly compatible Grime and Djemba will be together again to start their European leg in April.

If you missed Grime this time around, don’t fret, but do check the lineups of your favorite festivals this summer. RL Grime will surely make a stout appearance.

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