Concert Reviews

Last Night: Digitalism, Jack Beats and Destructo at the Granada Theater

Digitalism, Jackbeats and Destructo
Granada Theater
August 9, 2011

Better than:
waking up to this morning's alarm clock.

At some point in the 10 o'clock hour last night at the Granada Theater, Destructo, who not only served as the opening touring act on this bill but also as one of the entire so-called HARD tour's organizers, grabbed a microphone to scream at the crowd over one of his beats.

"This is a fucking dance party!" he shouted.

Sure, something like that. The theater, although hardly packed to the brim, drew a decent crowd of almost 700 on this night. But, more important than the crowd's size was its level of interest -- or, perhaps more interesting, the ways in which that interest varied over the course of the night.

Because, you see, here's the thing about last night's Granada crowd: It was kind of a weird bunch, a turnout heavily punctuated by Southern Methodist University Greek system types -- and, no, that's not an assumption, but a fact based off the number of fluorescent tank tops that shouted "Theta" or "Alpha" in every direction. EDM types tend to take issue with such an audience -- hence the somewhat derogatory "brostep" term tossed toward dubstep's more mainstream tracks.

But, for better or worse, this is what EDM crowds have become in recent history. And, what with the HARD tour serving as sort of a very mini-Identity Festival, this audience just made sense -- even if the artists on the bill seemed to have some difficulty coming to terms with that.

During their Destructo-following set, Jack Beats, the U.K.-based DJ/production duo, either intentionally or by design seemed to hit on every possible EDM subgenre -- bassline-heavy stuff, Baltimore scene stuff, classic house stuff, glitch stuff and, of course, dubstep stuff. The duo's known for their wide-ranging offerings, but on this night, it was somewhat unclear: Were they showcasing their breadth, or just trying everything out to find out what the crowd wanted to hear? Here's hoping, for their sake, it was the former; although the crowd was receptive throughout Jackbeats' offerings of their own and others' material, it was the very brostep sounds they shared at the end of the set that truly set the room off, inspiring full-on pogo-ing, hands stretched out to the sky and, in two cases, stage-diving (one of which was quite successful, the other of which was clearly not).

After Jack Beats, then, came an awkward transition. For the first time in the night, the curtain dropped in front of the Granada stage. Makes sense: Unlike their DJ counterparts, the headliners in Digitalism had a live set-up to deal with. After a 20-minute set change, the curtain rose once more to reveal the the German electro-pop duo behind various electronics and joined by a third player, a drummer.

But this was not just some glorified Travis Barker and DJ AM-aping offering. Their beats, surely, were largely prerecorded, but Jens "Jence" Moelle did his part, jumping out in front of the band's set-up from time to time to croon into an old-fashioned microphone stand set up at the front of the stage. And he was quite engaging, too, offering something of a Kevin Barnes vibe as he swirled about. "I Want I Want," the band's biggest hit from their 2007 debut, Idealism, came early on in the set -- just a few songs in -- but no matter. Switching to and fro from their first release and their just-released I Love You, Bro, the tandem's set scored especially well with the crowd -- and rightfully so. If only by its nature, their offering had the most lively feel of the night.

Whereas the earlier performers benefited from having no breaks between songs, though, Digitalism's offering somewhat suffered on that front. Coupled with the time of night -- the band's 70-minute offering didn't start until half past midnight -- much of the audience's steam had been lost as the band's set came to a close.

People can only pogo for so long, perhaps.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I like EDM. Probably not as much as my concert-going record of late would indicate, though. But, still, good times. Also, I really liked Digitalism's first record.

Random Note: Who knew that frat kids were suddenly so into EDM?

By The Way: There is no need for a headliner to not start their set until 12:30 on a Tuesday night show. Maybe that makes me old, but, c'mon.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman