Last Night: Major Lazer at Free Press Summer Fest
Photos by Groovehouse
More FPSF 2012 Coverage: • Summer Fest line-up reviews on the Rocks Off blog.
• Free Press Summer Fest 2012: The Sexy, Sweaty Crowds
• Popsicles and Pizza: The Food of Summer Fest
• FPSF: The Bands from Saturday
• FPSF: The Bands from Sunday
Major Lazer Free Press Summer Fest, Eleanor Tinsley Park June 2, 2012
On Friday afternoon I was talking to fellow Rocks Off-er Neph Basedow about what acts we were most looking forward to at Free Press Summer Fest. Mine was Major Lazer.
"Ohhhhh. I saw them at Fun Fun Fun Fest," she said. "It was the nastiest concert I'd ever seen."
Nasty? Now that really piqued my interest. Apparently the FFFFest show consisted of sometime hype man Skerrit Bwoy daggering female dancers, including daggering acrobatics such as Skerrit Bwoy climbing up a ladder or onto the group's speakers in order to jump off onto his waiting female accomplice. If none of that previous sentence makes sense to you, please watch the video for ML's "Pon de Floor," because that video is exactly the kind of scene I was hoping to see on Stage 1 Saturday.
As a producer, Diplo works with some of my favorite artists: M.I.A., La Roux, Santigold. He also has a knack for bringing lesser-known genres to the forefront of dance music, such as the Jamaican dancehall in "Pon de Floor." This is what initially drew me to ML's first (and so far only) album.
I guess I kind of screwed myself early in the day by making it a priority to see Big Freedia first. Because if I wanted nasty, I certainly got it there. [Stay tuned -- ed.] And like Diplo, Freedia is an artist championing a niche subgenre, sissy bounce, and championing it with such pride (more on Big Freedia in a bit). Later I stuck around Stage 3 to see Diplo as a solo act, and that was really fun. Just Diplo, DJing and chatting up the crowd.
But Major Lazer's gone through a lot of changes in the past year.
Switch, Diplo's partner, left to pursue other projects, and Skerrit Bwoy, who provided so much of the energy of their live shows, has turned to religion. And judging from yesterday's show, Diplo and his new partners seem to be moving away from the dancehall that made me love Guns Don't Kill People so much. Their set at FPSF had a much more poppy, rave-y tone to it, and frankly, after seeing Big Freedia and Diplo solo at Stage 3, it was kind of boring.
(Side note: Stage 3 was by far my favorite stage. It's set up like a geodesic dome, with red mesh panels covering some of the triangles. People crowd into the dome on three of the stage's four sides, and the shade it provides makes for a perfect, intimate festival-going experience.)
That said, the crowd for Major Lazer was huge, but not as huge as the nearly impenetrable crowd for Snoop Dogg would be. At 5:30 p.m., festival-goers had reached the pinnacle of drunk/stoned/sweaty and DNGAF-ness, and were putty in ML's hands. Diplo was also sweaty, and the natty suits he and his new DJ partner were wearing didn't last long.
Halfway through the show, his DJ partner (apologies that I don't have names for his new partner or his new hype man, but here they are in Houston) tore the lower half of his suit pants off, turning them into shorts, and instructed members of the audience to do the same.
"Take something off. Take anything off!"
Soon thousands of shirtless people were helicoptering their garments over their heads Petey Pablo-style while ML's trademark animation played in the background. If the music was uninspiring, it was at least pretty awesome to see the throng of dancers moving in unison.
The group sampled some new music from the album Diplo has apparently been working on for almost a year. It's natural to imagine that a split with his partner would lead to a new direction musically. I'm just not certain it's a direction I'll like. ML did finally play "Pon the Floor," probably their biggest hit, but by that time I was already making my way west towards Stage 2 for Erykah Badu (who was awesome).
Oh yeah, Major Lazer did have dancers onstage, too. Two women who moved like what I imagine the go-go dancers at places like Rich's would. But after having seen the Rubenesque, booty-popping beauties on Big Freedia's stage, the Major Lazer dance seemed so artificial.
That, and the hype man's broken-record repetition of "Hooooouston! How ya doing?" after every. single. song made it feel more like a scripted act and less like a dance party. I was surprised that I had more fun seeing Diplo solo than I did seeing ML.
Personal Bias: Was hoping for something a bit more dirty. Not just stage show-wise, but musically, too.
The Crowd: All about the Lazer fingers.
Overheard in the Crowd: A fight almost broke out when one seemingly intoxicated dude kept stumbling over people while being escorted up the hill by his buddies. But it wasn't the people he was stumbling over who wanted to fight. It was his buddies, who were apparently sick of babysitting him.
Random Notebook Dump: Everything else aside, I love the animation oft-employed by Major Lazer. It's the work of Ferry Gouw in case you're curious like I was.