Sometimes, you just need a night where you dance your cares away. Maybe you've had a rough week at work. Maybe you've gotten so much homework from school that it felt like your brain was going to explode. Maybe your parents are driving you absolutely ape-shit. Whatever it is, for most folks, an evening sweating their anxiety and uncertainty out of their system so they can forget their worries and just have a good time for a couple hours is a perfect reset button. And at a raucous and bad-ass performance at Rough Trade, Robert DeLong
turned the intimate venue into a day-glo dance orgy, and we're hard pressed to name a better way to spend an evening.
Let's just get this out of the way at the start, Robert DeLong crushed it. There is almost no other artist changing what the EDM space can look like to the extent that Robert DeLong has in the last couple years. His music consists of actual songs beyond your traditional wub wub/bass sounds. You can dance your ass off to Robert DeLong's music (and everybody in attendance that night did) but you can also sing along to it at the top of your lungs. That's what we in the business call being the total package. "Long Way Down" has as much room at the top of the Top 40 charts as it does being blasted by a DJ to a crowd of 5000 people at Terminal 5. Both of those situations make sense. And Robert's live performance is a whirlwind of energy and spectacle. His background is as a drummer and with actual bands. He plays instruments live. He uses unconventional instruments. That evening, I saw him do a live remix of Talking Heads' "Once In A Lifetime" that segued into one of his tracks with an N64 controller. That literally might as well be magic. And he managed to make Filter cool for the first time in about ten years with a manic cover of "Take A Picture" -- which might honestly be the first time I've heard that song since I was a freshman in college back in 2007.
And the visuals of the show are...something else. There's this new aesthetic called VaporWave that calls to mind the cheesy and garish fonts and styles of the early years of the internet and proto-Myspace and Geocities and all of those other sites that we've kind of forgotten existed. And throughout the show a bevy of psychedelic swirls and upper-fueled VaporWave screens and bizarre videos played behind DeLong. It was a Windows 95 screensaver panoply on peyote.
And everybody in Rough Trade was having an incredible time. One of the things that you do at a Robert DeLong concert is get your face painted. And I'd say two-thirds of the people at the show that night had their face painted. And the audience at Rough Trade became a sea of writhing bodies and folks lost in their own groove of bass and drums and melody. If you were at that show, odds are that you were either singing along til you went hoarse or you were bumping into the folks around you with your wild dance moves...or both. If you want to see someone own a crowd, go to a Robert DeLong show. He doesn't lose the crowd for one single second once he goes on stage.
In The Cards
and Just Movement
are two of the best dance albums of the 2010s. Zero question. We wouldn't have shot Robert DeLong in a killer Bands & Brews session last year if we didn't think this guy was reshaping the future of radio pop and dance club music. He's got the danceability of Calvin Harris -- with about twice as much nuance and subtlety to his rhythms -- and the pop sensibilities of M83. He's the next big thing. And when he stopped by Rough Trade, he only made us more hungry for whatever is next from EDM's genuine wunderkind