Nicole Moudaber Is Taking Over the Midway, Open to Close

By the British-Lebanese techno superstar's standards, that’s actually a short show.

In reference to her upcoming show, Nicole Moudaber tweeted that “You can trust me, this is going to be a special ride” and later “This is going to be a wild ride.” You could argue that self-promotion comes easy to party promoters, and that that’s just the standard hype. But she said it again and again, and only with respect to this one show on her North American tour, an open-to-close set at the Midway on Saturday, April 6 that will replicate the New York shows that brought her so much acclaim in this hemisphere. Why?

Well, for one thing, in addition to her famed remixes for the likes of Depeche Mode, Moby, and — more recently — Sasha, she’s set herself to the task of creating more original music this year. Moudaber’s midnight-to-2 a.m. set at Lightning in a Bottle 2018 was notable not only for its dark, from-the-furnaces-of-Berghain pulsations — “filthy-ass techno” was how one passionate fan described it — but for the comparatively diverse crowd it attracted. It was nothing short of magical to watch her assemble the devout in a rite of communion — although painfully, she was up against The Black Madonna, another immense talent who’s acutely aware of the DJ’s role as a quasi-religious figure. And Moudaber is on the festival circuit again this spring and summer, exporting wild rides.

The Midway show is an extended situation by San Francisco standards, to be sure, and much longer than any festival slots — but it’s fairly brief for Moudaber, a machine who routinely commands the decks for eight hours or more.

“I need about an hour or two just to warm up and get into my groove. But you know, we can manage, and we can pull it off,” she tells SF Weekly by phone. “You just choose the little bombs and you try to create something as much as possible with that short period of time.”

While the emphasis should always be on people’s abilities rather than their physical characteristics, it’s impossible not to acknowledge Moudaber’s unique speaking voice. Too velvety to be purely smoky, too vivacious to be altogether formidable, she could be Lauren Bacall’s distant cousin by way of cosmopolitan Beirut. She sounds almost like Madame Sosostris, the “famous clairvoyante” from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land — only instead of duping clients with made-up readings from a trick tarot deck, Moudaber is the real deal. You can’t get more cred than having an arrest record for the crime of “promoting homosexuality” in 2001 Lebanon just from throwing a party. And lately, she’s also sought spiritual advice of her own, from a woman she describes as an “astrologist, a medium, a spiritual healer, a witch, and all that — a chart reader.

“It’s a long journey, I guess, but I only started a week ago,” Moudaber adds. “And the questions that these people ask you! You wonder sometimes: ‘Oh, I never thought of that.’ ”

Long journeys are something of her specialty, in that she travels the world and barely has time to recuperate in her London home. (She sold a house in Ibiza not long ago.) That disjunction, between spending long periods in transit only to stand on your feet in one place for equally long periods, would probably wear down most people. Apart from trying to “picture the universe all the time and speak to my angels,” she doesn’t have much in the way of rituals — just vitamins and ayurvedic pills to give her oxygen and focus for her lengthy sets.

“Some people have stamina, and some people don’t,” she says. “It depends what drives you to do this extensive touring. If you look at it, really, you have to be really fucked in the head to run away in that manner. So this is why I’m looking at myself: What am I running away from? Whatever I’m running away from is giving me a lot of pleasure on the other side, and it’s given me a lot of love — which is probably what I’m looking for.

“I guess I’m thriving on that because it’s rewarding and probably because I think I never had love in my life,” she adds, “but that’s another talk show.”

But maybe, just maybe, she’s running toward it?

“Probably, yeah,” she laughs. “There you go.”

As a DJ, promoter, producer, and radio host, the Nigerian-born, British-Lebanese Moudaber has accrued one of the most passionate followings of any performer at her scale. And on top of flying around the world for work, she loves fast cars. She owns an Aston-Martin and a few years ago, she rented a Ferrari to drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs and back for Coachella. More recently, she biked around Melbourne with none other than Carl Cox for “eight or nine hours.”

Tirelessness is an appealing trait, as much off the dancefloor as on. It’s spurred her to launch ELEVEN, a charity working to eradicate female genital mutilation — something 11 girls or women undergo every minute, worldwide — and to create a International Women’s Day playlist populated by inexhaustible figures like Anja Schneider, Janelle Monáe, and Grimes. It’s a part of the seismic shift that’s underway in the workplace and more hedonic spaces.

“I think more women are willing to get on this journey more than in the past,” she says. “More girls are ready to get on the road and live alone in hotels and give the best memories for people around the world. You have to want it more than anything.”

And for five hours this Saturday, we will be there to receive it.

Nicole Moudaber, Saturday, April 6, 9 p.m.-2 a.m., at the Midway, 900 Marin St. $25-$75, themidwaysf.com

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