Robert DeLong At Make Music Pasadena, Saturday June 1st 2013
After just a few seconds of his performance at Make Music Pasadena, Robert DeLong got a problem, his Mac crashed, ‘It’s so fucking hot that my computer just crashed! I hope you were having fun for 40 seconds!’ he said to the large crowd, someone shouted the ultimate anti-hipster line ‘Get Microsoft!’, but it was not necessary, after a brief interruption and some shadow over all his electronic stuff, DeLong continued his song exactly where it got interrupted.
Alone on stage and surrounded by a lot of equipment, he was sweating his ass off while giving one of his performances mixing electro-techno-beats, real drumming and his strong and bright voice. Before anything, he is a real performer, he is not a DJ à la Diplo, and not the kind of electronica guy standing behind his computer, the guy was moving a lot, he even took the mic in one hand to sing his crisp lyrics, and sat behind a drum set a few times to give a boost to his electronic samples. Despite the hot temperature, he was as fast and restless as his music, he was jumping in the middle of synth swirls and massive beats, and the crowd absolutely loved this pop sensibility mixed with flashy and heavy techno-dance beats.
Dressed in black with these neon-orange crosses and zigzags all over his t-shirt, face and equipment, I thought his set was very enjoyable considering the fact that I am not an electronic person. If there was weirdness and electronic dissonance or some occasional high-frequency screes, the vocals were always in the front, and there was also enough of that Death Cab for Cutie vibe (or even Beck?) to satisfy any pop lover. The lyrics were clear, direct and repetitive like ‘Be not afraid it’s just a game’ or ’did I make you fucking dance’ while he was sculpting his sound with laptops, joysticks and other gadgets coming right from video games. All this seemed quite complex and technical, as if he was an impressive one-man band doing everything at once, without even taking a moment to rest between the different tracks, throwing up an occasional Rolling Stones ‘Miss You’ or Talking Heads ‘Once in a lifetime’.
He just got nominated as a 2013 Artist to Watch for MTV US, Billboard and Vibe, and his music has been described by Wired Magazine as ‘a merger of electronic dance music, alt rock, and vocals into tracks that are poppy enough to make you move but dissonant enough to be interesting’,… the girls constantly jumping in front of me, had totally got it, and it is not a coincidence if his first full-length album (just released this year) is called ‘Just Movement’! Most of the songs had these dance-floor-number moments, but there was more dynamic experimentation than in your average dance-floor number, and honestly they were not entirely danceable from start to finish… one of the songs triggered some unexpected crowd surfing, but why not? Can Skrillex’s dubstep do that? I seriously doubt, but DeLong’s music has much more to offer than that.