Can one survive an EDM concert sober?
With its flickering strobes, oculus rifts, subwoofer earthquakes, underdressed under-aged throngs and haze of PLUR penetrating the soul, you might think not. The atmosphere is noisy and sweaty, with possessed arms flailing in your face— if they’re not aiming for your unmentionables.
In spite of the cliché hedonism of DJ performances, a French kid called Madeon elevated the unaltered state of mind at Club Nokia in Los Angeles on Jan. 22.
Hugo Pierre Leclercq is barely old enough to drink legally in the States, but he’s already enough of an industry veteran that he’s opened for Lady Gaga and can afford 4K chevron monitors for set dressing.
He’s got the talent to boot. He plays his illuminated audio grids like a guitar god noodling away on “Freebird.”
His energy at Club Nokia was refreshing. He was an electronic Superman, leaping over massive tempo shifts with a single bound. He was a one-person parade, dashing from a keyboard to a trio of Novation MIDI controllers. Samples of Daft Punk and a slew of other dance icons blurted out of the space-age systems. With this setup, he emulated the robotic DJ duo in their celestial pyramid.
Madeon’s dreamy songs aren’t beholden to the club or rave scene. When he dived into “La Lune,” featuring Dan Smith of Bastille on the recording, he created an atmosphere of serenity. It was chillwave to study to. The audience swayed and disappeared into the roving scenery, exploring distant planets full of dust and 2001 obelisks. Madeon was an astronaut, boldly going where artists have treaded before but doing a much more thorough job.
In dance music, youth is king anyway. Openers Skylar Spence (22) and Andrew Luce (18) kept things fresh. The former flashed a Cheshire grin as he strapped on his glittery guitar and rocked out like a lost member of Hot Hot Heat. The latter, though still working through some major-stage jitters, blared passable future/trap to the early arrivals.
The devotees were definitely there to see their French hero, though. When he emerged from the fog and ascended to his musical pod, the crowd roared as though Beyonce entered the building. With his 2011 star-making mash-up, “Pop Culture,” he ushered in a new era of EDM. His is a reign not just for the young but by the young. Moby and John Digweed still headline fests, but it’s Madeon who really connects with fans. He isn’t unreachable. He is their doting captain.
So can one relish an EDM concert without being under the influence?
The beats still thrum through the clean body, unleashing something innate, something alive. The visuals infiltrate the brain. The lights glare and sparkle even when one closes his eyes. The movement of ecstatic bodies around oneself washes over like a tidal wave. Resistance is futile. You join in by osmosis.
Like Madeon’s album title suggests, the show is an Adventure.
Lead photo by AM ONLY. Video still by Melissa Bobbitt.