Skrillex Meets Stravinsky

EDM and classical turn tag-team partners this weekend as the national dance party Mercury Soul comes to the Strip District.

Photos courtesy of Mercury Soul

So, how to describe the seemingly indescribable Mercury Soul? It’s a bit like a musical Optimus Prime, transforming with sonic bravado right in front of your ears.

“When you come into the space, you’ll see Mason Bates — who’s a composer, but also lives this dual life as a west-coast DJ. He’ll be with one of our musicians, [bassist] Jeffrey Grubbs, jamming. Gradually, they’ll have more musicians come up to the stage; there will be a transition from a DJ set to a classical-contemporary piece.”

That’s what the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will be up to Friday night, according to Yonca Karakilic, the PSO’s manager of artistic planning, audience engagement and festivals. In other words, it’s not your typical evening at Heinz Hall.

Or your typical evening at Static nightclub, for that matter. Frankly, it’s not your typical evening anywhere.

Mercury Soul is a one-of-a-kind, high-culture jam session and soiree that’s made waves nationwide via standout parties in Miami, San Francisco and Chicago. Bates described it, in a press release, as a “dee-jayed party with electronic dance music that’s visited by a SWAT team of classical musicians.”

Bates is also premiering a new, PSO-commissioned piece, The Rise of Exotic Computing, as the evening’s finale.

As you wander around Static — which Karakilic ranks as “the best space they’ve had for a Mercury Soul event” — taking in sets from different pods of musicians, you’ll notice that the atmosphere is a lot more than strobe lights and fog machines. The lighting and projected media for the night will be designed by a team of students from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. An array of carefully conceived and curated creations, ranging from eye-grabbing time-lapse shots of Pittsburgh to something called “live performance video with real-time effects,” will add a theatrical (and somewhat surreal) quality to the evening.

There’s a bunch of other remarkable pieces and performers on tap, as well — but none will be as busy on Friday as concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley. The violinist (who performed a stunning, opening-day rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for a sold-out PNC Park crowd on Monday) will perform a somewhat more traditional set at Heinz Hall — stunningly, Mercury Soul will take place simultaneously with a Symphony subscription series performance — and then dash across town to present John Corigliano’s Stomp for solo violin at Static.

In short, you’ll have the chance to head to one of Pittsburgh’s coolest clubs for an otherworldly, impossibly chic party filled with music you’ve never heard — or even conceived of.

It’s more or less the kind of thing you pictured your grown-up self attending when you were a bored teenager. Don’t miss it.

(1650 Smallman St., Strip District; Friday, 9 p.m.; 21+; $20, VIP tables (for 6) $300; 412/392-4900, for tickets)

Categories: After Dark