“It’s been much too long since Joel Zimmerman, stage name Deadmau5, has been able to tour, and even longer since he visited the land of the cheeseheads. The house legend hasn’t been able to perform in Wisconsin since the pandemic in 2020, when he was slated to perform at Milwaukee’s The Rave, a show I as a longtime mouse fan had been fanatically waiting for since it was the first one in the area since I had begun photographing concerts. Alas, it was not meant to be – his show, along with several other great EDM selections, was yet another casualty of the worldwide shutdown of live events. So, of course, when the show was announced at my old stomping ground The Sylvee, I absolutely had to be there.

Any fans showing up would know they were in for a treat as soon as Bensley opened the show that night. Three massive towers of LED panels lined the stage, showing off mind-bending and mesmerizing graphics as the accompanying towering panels of lights flared in sync with his signature drum’n’bass. Following Bensley were two further quality acts in Kasablanca and NERO, the second of which played an incredible DJ set that utilized the aforementioned panel setup to tremendous effect. As is tradition with EDM shows anywhere, the crowd really hadn’t showed up until NERO was about halfway through their set (~10pm), but you couldn’t really tell with how insane the place was with energy already, made even easier to observe by the many glow in the dark and light up Deadmau5 fan helmets spread throughout the crowd.

And then it was time for the main event. Joel got onto stage, sans-helmet, and made a quip about how crazy cheeseheads seemed to be, and then we were off to the races. There’s always an interesting dynamic between different types of EDM shows – some performers will take a more laid-back approach to mixing their show and make small adjustments during, and others will mix everything to precision as they go. The former allows for a more consistent, choreographed performance, and the latter tends to allow for a more organic, unique, you-had-to-be-there performance. 

Any Deadmau5 fan of reasonable familiarity will know that his approach would be the second option. Fans will hear bits and pieces of many, many, many Deadmau5 tracks from the last 20 years of producing music, albeit briefly – Joel is constantly mixing and changing and swerving and making snap decisions, and it makes for an incredible, simultaneously memorable and hard-to-pinpoint performance. Snippets of pretty much every conceivable hit track from his back catalogue can be heard, but they are short lived and often move into other material, usually never to be revisited! If you’re someone who is looking to show up to the show and hear I Remember in its entirety, then it’s not the show for you – but if you’re the type to show up and want to hear Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff veer into something interesting and cool live, then it is going to absolutely blow your mind.

This is also accompanied by one of the best imaging setups in the business. Known for programming and designing much of what is presented at his shows, Deadmau5′ huge panel set up are constantly presenting different variations of that trademark mouse-head logo, intermixed with some truly bizarre and psychedelic visuals (a large-toothed cow jumps to mind as the wildest of the night). And, of course, the helmet comes out eventually – and then the whole presentation truly comes together, Joel finally escaping his cube to dance with the crowd, really driving home what a personal experience performing live is for him – and for his fans.”