The Chainsmokers Prove EDM Can Work at the Rodeo

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The Chainsmokers
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
March 12, 2017

Other than perhaps the group themselves, it’s hard to say that anyone really knew how The Chainsmokers' set at RodeoHouston was going to play out. Many had theories for sure, but when it came to the most intriguing show of this year’s lineup it was still anyone’s guess. True, lots of artists who have appeared before and will appear this year play music that you can dance to, but DJs at the Rodeo seemed like potentially a bridge too far.

Having seen their performance, the decision to book The Chainsmokers for the revolving stage was inspired. The Chainsmokers have a perfect blend of mainstream singles, playlist selection and vision, all things needed to make the biggest rave in Houston history a success. If the goal was to introduce EDM to the Rodeo – a question we’ll only know the answer to as the years go by – they picked the right act to take a chance on.

The Chainsmokers Prove EDM Can Work at the Rodeo
Photo by Marco Torres

But that’s hindsight talking. In the moment, when their set first started, it was easy to worry that the entire thing might end up being a disaster. After what felt like a little too long of a buildup for the group to take the stage, the sound mix was a complete mess, bordering on painful. Luckily they got that fixed quickly, and what followed was one of the more interesting sets in recent RodeoHouston memory.

Yes, it was still mostly two dudes behind or on top of some DJ equipment, with Andrew Taggart making the trek out on the edge of the stage during the songs he sings on, but the lessons they’ve learned from playing festivals around the world has paid off for the group. How do you make a show exciting when you’re a DJ? Tons of lights, slick videos and more pyro than the rest of the acts playing the Rodeo this year will use combined. There are a lot of acts out there than know how to put on a good Rodeo show, but there are few who know how to maximize the space provided as well as The Chainsmokers did.

“Closer,” for better or worse, was the massive singalong that you’d expect it would be, but the crowd was really into most of their singles, and popped big for some of the non-EDM songs dropped into the set, including tastes of KISS, Blink 182 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. To the surprise of your humble concert reviewer, they even managed to find time to drop a “#Selfie” remix into the set, which was a delight.

The Chainsmokers Prove EDM Can Work at the Rodeo
Photo by Marco Torres

Is there a future for EDM at the Rodeo? The Chainsmokers make a good case that it can work, although the Rodeo is going to really need circumstances to line up in the right way if it’s ever going to pull in 74,000+ again. But if it’s something they did want to try on the regular, my suggestion would be to book whomever – Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Tiesto – for a Value Wednesday gig the week of Spring Break.

And let the acts you bring in be themselves. It was weird but refreshing to hear dubstep and trap music at the Rodeo, but judging by the dancing masses there is an audience for it. Credit to The Chainsmokers for staying true to themselves and playing what they normally play instead of just running through the hits; it sure as heck wasn’t traditional, but it was pretty damn entertaining.

The Chainsmokers Prove EDM Can Work at the Rodeo
Photo by Marco Torres

Personal Bias: I unironically really enjoy “#Selfie,” enough so that I put it on one of my Pazz and Jop ballots. That The Chainsmokers were smart by tapping into that particular bit of modern culture I have no doubt, even though I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to decide if the song is supposed to be clever satire or not. Not that it matters, I suppose.

The Crowd: The largest of RodeoHouston 2017 so far, coming up at 74,280, many whom were super-eager to dance the now-bright evening hours away.

Overheard In the Crowd: “How do we get on dat?” she asked her partner, confused as to why they were walking toward the parking lot and not riding a tram. We probably should have mentioned that in our newbie Rodeo guide.

Mutton Bustin’ Update: After a slow start, we got a trio of 90s on the books before things were all said and done. They might not have taken home the big prize, but the real winner last night was the kid who said they wanted to be a dinosaur when they grew up.

Random Notebook Dump: I wouldn’t go myself, but Panic! at the Disco would probably do well at the Rodeo.

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