Last Night: Diplo at Rio Room


Rio Room
September 1, 2011

Better than: watching the movie Rio, I assume.

Still, it was a price many were willing to pay nonetheless to catch a two-hour DJ set from one Thomas Pentz, who performs and produces under the name of Diplo. 

In the electronic world, he's a bona fide superstar, regular playing festival gigs to crowds ten times this size. And rightfully so: He's a star performer in his own right thanks to Major Lazer and a much-sought-after producer thanks to his work with M.I.A. (he's the mind behind "Paper Planes") and others. And, indeed, 2011 has been especially kind to him, especially in the mainstream, thanks to his work on Beyonce's "Run The World (Girls)" and Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now."

He's a versatile and somewhat experimental producer, to be sure, pulling in influences from across the board, from straight house to more Caribbean-inspired moombahton-ish fare and making these touchstones palatable in the mainstream.

But, for the most part, on this night, Diplo played things rather safely.

After starting his set at midnight, his selection mostly stayed within a house wheelhouse, especially at the start of the night. As the night went on, he expanded his reach somewhat, touching on dubstep (including a whole bunch of Skrillex tracks) and, in an especially uninspired turn, far too much unaltered mainstream hip-hop.

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But maybe it was all just a matter of the performer knowing what his audience wanted to hear. At around 1 in the morning, he dropped Waka Flocka Flame's "Hard in the Paint," dedicating the song to the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The crowd cheered -- and significantly more so than when Diplo played his own "Look At Me Now" track. A sign that this crowd was more here for the scene than the performer? Perhaps. But Diplo didn't seem to mind.

"Dallas!" he repeatedly shouted into his microphone to loud cheers. "Rio Room!" he shouted excitedly when "Dallas!" wouldn't suffice. The crowd screamed back every time.

"I haven't been here [to Rio Room] since the Super Bowl," he announced. "Unless you count Dirk Nowitzki's birthday."

More cheers from the crowd, which was gleefully unaware that Diplo had just been hanging out on 41's birthday night, rather than performing. Likely, they were unaware that he'd be returning to town soon enough once more, this time for a New Year's Eve performance at the Dallas Convention Center with a large cast of other electronic producers and performers as part of the impressive Lights All Night bill. Instead, the crowd was mostly enthralled by the fact that a handful of revelers were dressed in Star Wars gear, complete with lightsabers that put the rest of the room's glowstick necklaces to shame.

Still, it was a fun night, bolstered once again by the fact that, as lounges in town go, Rio's sound system is unmatched. And, aware or not of the greatness behind the booth, and perhaps this night's lack thereof, there was plenty of dancing. Boy, was there ever.

Credit Diplo for that much, at least: His blends were perfect, his energy consistently high and his drops leaving the crowd eagerly anticipating the music's return.

Finally, at 2 a.m., the crowds finally began to thin. And Diplo, intentionally or not, gave them a fine send-off, playing them out to "The Healer" from Dallas' Own Erykah Badu.

Perhaps next time, he'll remain that clever throughout the night.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: I've seen Diplo like four times in the past two years, including his Super Bowl and Electric Daisy Carnival gigs. The dude's a talent. It's no wonder that he's becoming such a force in mainstream music of late

Random Note: This was billed as the last of Rio's Thursday night summer series bills. But, turns out, there's another interesting gig coming to the spot next week. We'll have details on that front here on this blog shortly.

By The Way: What did musicians used to say to crowds in Dallas before the Mavericks won the title? I don't even remember.

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