First Avenue, Minneapolis
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
A girl dressed entirely in silver spandex with rainbow tinsel false eyelashes stood next to a couple in matching windbreakers waiting to have their IDs checked. "Do you like art?," a drifter asked, flashing his notebook toward no one in particular, hoping to sell a sketch. A sign was posted on each door at the entrance of First Avenue: "WARNING: Strobes are used heavily during this show."
Chromeo certainly draws a unique crowd, one that may not be found together on any other occasion. The duo themselves have formed an odd collage of sound and culture that has managed to seep its way deep into the electronic music landscape while still standing on its own two legs. Yes, legs. Perhaps their most recognizable aesthetic element is the two tables standing upon the stage at each of their shows, both supported by a sexy pair of synthetic stems.See also:
Slideshow: Chromeo get funky at First Avenue
About an hour after the doors opened, it became more obvious that this was indeed a sold-out show. The temperature inside of the mainroom rose by about ten degrees, and anxious concertgoers milled about in their assorted Chromeo-inspired costumes. Spotted were a man wearing a neck-tie encased in neon lights and a woman dressed entirely (and unfortunately) in mesh. "Tickets! Tickets!," yelled the scalpers outside.
Oliver was the sole opening act of the night, using hard-hitting electro tactics to get the crowd warmed up before Chromeo. U-Tern was controlled in his movements over the panels of his mixer, his head nodding sharply to the pounding bass. The set was a seemingly random mash-up of different genres, including house, techno, trap and straightforward electro. People were beginning to take selfies. A small group of about five bros wedged in the crowd up towards the stage were demonstrating some type of dance move reminiscent of a giant bird of prey flapping its wings.
"Whats your name?" a man whispered huskily in my ear. I turned my head to meet the gaze of a complete stranger who was leaning directly into my face. "I'm in love with you," he said. "I'm going to go over there by my friends and continue to be in love with you, so come find me later if you want." He slunk down the stairs and away towards the pterodactyl dance crew.
Oliver continued to perform an audio demonstration of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In the midst of the genre-hopping he dropped the classic DJ tune "aNYway" by Duck Sauce -- a song that you have probably memorized entirely without even realizing it, unless you haven't been to a bar or nightclub since 2009. Interestingly, Duck Sauce is the collaborative creative endeavor of Armand Van Helden and A-Trak. Oliver has a song with A-Trak, and A-Trak is actually the younger brother of Dave 1, guitarist and lead vocalist of Chromeo.
After "aNYway," though, U-Tern went back into some kind of weird synth heavy theme song. "This would be part of the soundtrack for an '80s cop movie," my friend said. "In the beginning of the movie where they are trying to make the cops look cool."
When Chromeo strutted onto the stage, the crowd loudly chanted their name. Shrouded in darkness, Dave 1 and P-Thugg sauntered over to their marks and people began to quite literally scream. The narrow aisles heading out of the pit before the stage were filled with bodies pushing into one another. Suddenly, there was a blast of light and the entire room was illuminated by the stacks of powerful stobes to either side of the men. Dave 1 began stroking his guitar, swinging his hips to the beat as P-Thugg wailed an autotune masterpiece.
Women shrieked. Men closed their eyes and sang along at the top of their lungs. As Chromeo moved into their second song, "Hot Mess," Dave 1 stepped down from the elevated stage and moved toward the crowd, smiling wildly. At this point the audience was reacting as if they were watching a really exciting porn flick. The sexiness of Dave 1's guitar playing was palpable, and carried easily by the song itself.
Everything onstage along with the two was carefully calculated. Elements of lighting were executed with precision. Two giant windowpane-like panels stood behind it all, momentarily illuminated from behind. During "Come Alive," beams shone down across the stage to form an intricate crosshatch that looked like a crazy laser beam security system that Dave 1 might do flips to avoid. After the song he took a brief pause, addressing the audience. "So that's what a Tuesday night in Minneapolis looks like, huh?" he asked.
"Whats up, Minneapolis?," P-Thugg asked in a terrifying autotune robot voice. "The city of funk! You know it!"
Dave 1 chimed in again. "Minneapolis is like our spirit animal for music!"
As Chromeo tore through their next couple of songs, things got rowdier. A First Avenue staff member sprayed people with cold water -- the temperature inside had probably increased by yet another ten degrees by this point. Two girls were fighting to get through the mosh pit that had formed in the aisle leading down to the stage. They relentlessly pushed everyone around the out of the way, spilling their drinks as they went. A guy directly in their path was struggling to send a text message to his friends -- a group message, in fact. The message was a photo of Dave 1 with the caption, "lead singer looks like raj!"
It is truly fascinating to observe the chemistry between Chromeo, along with their seemingly effortless ability to use their instruments and their voices live. The two have joked that they are "the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture." Their stage presence is massive, which has earned them a spot in a variety of music festivals and aided them in carving out a niche for their eccentric sound in a dance culture so often drowning in similarities. They each move with a confident swagger, giving the impression that they are dominating the entire stage when in reality they barely move from behind the glowing legs.
While neither of the two spoke much throughout the duration of their set, Dave 1 did spend a bit of time expressing his love for performing in Minneapolis. "We got our star on the side of the building," he said, pointing to the wall. "That's not going anywhere." The crowd let out an appreciative roar. "Our whole style, our whole career...is because of Purple Rain," he continued.
After 11 songs they left the stage, returning for a three-song encore which included "Frequent Flier," a track off their upcoming album White Women, which is scheduled for release next week. "Frequent Flier" received a favorable reaction. Somehow though, the encore fell just the tiniest bit flat, as they saved some of their more abstract, less dance-y songs to close out with.
A random man stopped us on our way out of the venue, pointing at a blonde woman who was halfway out the door, asking, "Is that Paris Hilton? I think I just saw Paris Hilton!" And outside, those fateful words: "Hey man, do you like art?"
Critic's Bias: I saw Chromeo at Coachella maybe six years ago and since then have managed to psychically absorb all of their music just from going out in public at night -- something I discovered when I found myself somehow recognizing every single song they played.
The crowd: Really eclectic and interesting.
Overheard: "I want sex" -random girl leaving the show early.
Night by Night
Over Your Shoulder
Jealous (I Ain't With It)
Frequent Flier (unreleased)
Don't Turn the Lights On
You're So Gangsta
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