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WEDNESDAY

If you examine the career of Paul Oakenfold, the trailblazing DJ looks more like an expert sidekick—the ultimate enabler for a global cast of tweakers, jokers, rock stars, futurists, neo-hippies, urban elitists, and drug vacationers—than the creative genius many consider him to be. As a record-label rep in the ’80s, he signed the Fresh Prince and Salt ‘n’ Pepa; as a producer, he was the eye of the storm for Happy Mondays’ Pills ‘n’ Thrills & Bellyaches. But his name didn’t become widely known until the ’90s, when he was anointed a prophet of trance as a trend-setting spinner at Cream, Goa, the Ministry of Sound, and just about anywhere else that kids sought a never-ending dance-floor uptopia. Sincerity and optimism are trance’s cornerstones, and Oakenfold always shoots for a sound that uplifts and unifies without too many goofy crescendos. Maybe that’s why his soundtrack for the John Travolta-Halle Berry tech thriller Swordfish was so ill-advised: It’s a cranky, half-baked flick with phoned-in performances, and Oakie just wasn’t able to concoct grooves that were dirty and flippant enough in tone. Ditto for Bunkka, his recent disc of all-new material. The guest stars (Ice Cube, Nelly Furtado) deserve to be batted around a bit; instead they’re treated gently. Such is life for a soundsmith who prefers not to get in the way of somebody else’s good time. He certainly won’t get in the way of yours when he plays with a live band and opener Hernan Cattaneo at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $35. (202) 393-0930. (Joe Warminsky)