Live DJ acts, which have rapidly risen to prominence in mainstream culture over the past decade, are actually a pretty interesting instance of solo performance. Aside from a few duo and trio acts with glaringly extraneous members, every DJ takes the stage all alone, using some combination of computers and turntables to select and mix the music. In these kind of shows (in contrast with stand-up comedy) it seems like the true performance no longer originates from the person on stage at all, but rather from the music, lights, and visual experience that surrounds them. Even the music they play isn’t necessarily theirs; the whole art of DJing is selecting the perfect songs and samples from other people’s work to get the crowd dancing.
Bassnectar is by far my favorite electronic performer because his shows always incorporate creative performative elements. Last time I saw him, the show began with a theatrical introduction involving a ten minute procession of glowing dancers and drummers that ferried him through the center of the crowd. Once on stage, he assumed his signature mixing position, with his long black hair shielding his face as he swung it back and forth to the rhythm of the dubstep beats. The psychedelic imagery on the LCD panels surrounding him coincided nicely with the feel and theme of each song he selected. Unlike most of today’s electronic acts, derogatorily referred to as DJ’s who just “press play”, Bassnectar picks and remixes much of his set in the moment to fit the vibe of each particular show, making it feel (at least to me) more like a real live performance.
When Jim Morrison predicted the future of music in 1969, he did it like this (emphasis mine):
It might rely heavily on electronics, tapes. I can kind of envision, maybe, one person with a lot of machines: tapes, electronic setups, singing or speaking, using machines.
A recording of him saying this was sampled in a song by popular dubstep artist Skrillex just a couple of years ago.