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About 10 years ago, Steven Zhu dropped the song titled “Faded.” After that song spread around the world in every club and every rave, his’s life changed forever. It was 2014 and we were near the peak of the EDM wave that encapsulated the planet. So many DJs rode the explosive wave of EDM into super stardom back in 2014. New talent was popping up everywhere with new DJs spinning in the trance, house, and techno genres and subgenres. It was a crazy time in the EDM scene. So many new eyeballs and ears to the scene allowed for more producers to grow in popularity. Fast forward nearly ten years: many of them have started to plateau. EDM isn’t going anywhere but it’s not all over the radio or as in-your-face as it was in 2014. I’m not saying DJs have fallen off, but I will say that it is indeed a little tricky to keep everyone’s attention for a decade solely with repetitive beats. Early on, ZHU has been pushing himself outside of the “box” that DJs often find themselves trapped in. He’s been pushing the bounds of his music, incorporating the piano and other instruments, and picking up the mic to offer his own vocals. The diversity of his talent has separated him from the pack. Four albums into his career, he recently sold out three nights at The Hollywood Palladium in November 2023. Let’s hop into it.

Up first was partywithray. As fans piled into the venue, they were greeted with syncopated bass lines and four-on-the-floor-beats. He got everyone hype with songs like “Came For The Low” and “Lil Mama”. The young DJ had everybody moving and teed it up well for the middle set. Up second was Hayden James.  The “Something About You” producer rocked the dance floor from wall to wall for a little under an hour and half. Fans were singing the lyrics to songs like “Just Friends” and “NUMB” as the upbeat basslines thumped through the night.

Finally, at 9:30 PM, the lights in the venue dimmed to near blackness. In amazing speed, the production team assembled a structure that resembled a massive black steel cage. Fog machines filled the venue with smoke. Dark red lights illuminated from said cage throughout the venue. Five figures dressed in all black slowly walked in front of the cage and stood there facing away from the crowd. It felt like I was watching The Undertaker enter a Wrestlemania event during the WWF attitude era. Four of the figures entered the cage. The spotlights turned on, the beat dropped, and the remaining individual outside the cage introduced himself to the crowd. You guessed it: ZHU. The other four gentlemen were members of his live band. They rocked the drums, guitar, saxophone, and bass from within the cage throughout his set. Perched on top of the cage were ZHU’s boards where he dropped beat after beat until the night was through. The production was top notch and live elements proved why ZHU is a seriously good performer. It wasn’t just an EDM show but was full-on musical theater.

ZHU absolutely nailed his second night at The Hollywood Palladium on the Fall of Grace 2023 Tour. I can only imagine nights one and three went just as well. The addition of a live band to his EDM beats added a level of energy unmatched by any other EDM show I’ve been to. Check out this show when he comes by your local city. It’s a banger.


Kris Kuganathan

Photojournalist - Orange County

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