Words By Dan Singer, Photos By Peter Nguyen
When I turned 13, I had my Bar Mitzvah party at a roller skating rink because I hated dancing. Two years later, at my younger brother’s glitzy Bar Mitzvah party in a suburban Maryland Sheraton, pint-sized tweens were grinding up on each other and the Jewish people collectively breathed a sigh of relief that it would continue to repopulate.
It was only fitting that my brother convinced me to listen to Flume and see the 22-year-old Aussie phenom play the 9:30 Club on Wednesday night. He came along as a spirit guide of sorts to help me navigate Flume’s off-kilter electronic music and the sea of enthusiastic boys and girls who packed the club to hi-five to it. I’m no EDM expert, but I’d heard enough bloops and wubs in my lifetime to wonder why tickets for this show were topping $100 on Craigslist. This guy must be doing something right, something that makes the kids forget their troubles and dance their partially exposed asscheeks off.
Youthful paint-clad partygoers were excitedly filing into the club when we arrived. It only took a few minutes of waiting outside before we saw one of them, half-empty Coke bottle in hand, get approached by bouncers and receive two big “time to leave” X’s on his hands, a fate worse than the pants-staining clock stamp given to underage patrons who aren’t caught with alcohol. A friend who works at the club told me he caught another kid nearly an hour before doors opened trying to get into the Backbar with discolored Gatorade. I’m barely old enough to legally drink — hell, I whined about being underage in my first review for BYT — but here’s a little advice for the younglings: Don’t test the 9:30 Club staff. They’re on their game and will catch you, and you’ll be sad and tweet about your sadness. If you’re going to drink, do it before you get anywhere near a venue and dispose of the evidence. Booze in a soda bottle is as predictable as a bass drop.
When we finally went inside, my brother began showing me around the club as if I was Lindsay Lohan in the Mean Girls cafeteria. He pointed out the USA headbands, the guys wearing appropriated tribal prints, Hawaiian shirts and pretty much every other trend in the “high school bro subgenre,” as he put it. We watched a pair of heartbroken girls get the X’s of doom, but the misery subsided when my brother led me to the “groovy section,” where bros in baseball caps were perfecting their moves before Flume even took to the stage. He told me to keep an eye out for the “twerk/groove ratio” during the set, since that would help me understand the vibe of the show. Regarding Flume himself, I was told to expect “layers with offbeats” and “eclectic noises.”
Flume came onstage aided by a heavenly light display and the kids were immediately #turnt. Pretty early on in the set a couple started aggressively making out in front of me and I thought the guy was trying to eat his girlfriend’s nose ring. Then the club began to smell like a grisly combination of weed and body odor. My brother said it was the smell of “sweat, gas and teenage angst,” as well as a joint or two. In recent months I’d casually listened to Flume as background music, but I was still surprised that he mostly avoided four-on-the-floor kick drums and used a healthy dose of said eclectic noises in his buildups and transitions. As a result, however, the “layers with offbeats” came in the form of awfully arhythmic clappers, but that didn’t seem to deter anyone’s good spirits for long. The twerk/groove ratio was alive and well, leaning more toward the latter but getting butts of all shapes and sizes to unite in reverence to Australia’s current king of Ableton.
Despite our cultural hand-wringing about laptop music, I give Flume credit for his ability to command a crowd. He’s got some dangerously hooky bangers (see “Holdin On”), and, according to my brother, he often veered off-script during tracks from his debut album. Flume also knows his way around a solid remix — in his hands, Lorde’s understated earworm “Tennis Court” acquired glitchy bombast that brought to mind the elusive Jai Paul. Technicolor visuals seem to be imperative at EDM performances in order to keep the semi-hydrated Millennials engaged, and Flume’s were prettier than usual, evoking a lost episode of The Joy of Painting in which Bob Ross gets baked and creates his happiest little clouds. Near the end of the set Flume fired off confetti cannons, much to the crowd’s delight. I put a piece of confetti in my mouth and pretended it was a hit of acid. After all, I wanted to make a good impression on my peers in the groovy section.
When the show ended, my brother approached a baseball cap bro and the following ecstatic conversation ensued:
“Yes! Woogidy woo!”
*They embrace via a Rocket Power finger-wiggle woogidy bro-shake*
I may not fully understand it, but there’s something to be said about music that causes you look away from your iPhone and make a new friend, or at least take a selfie with them. In comparison, last weekend I saw Sun Kil Moon give a depressingly bleak performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival, and I can say without reservation that this was far more entertaining. Facebook friends, please don’t invite me to your next rave (or sexy Bar Mitzvah party), but take comfort in the fact that guys like Flume have the potential to take EDM beyond its current cliches without sacrificing the fun.