Diplo | Chiddy Bang | Lunice The Firebird March 30, 2012
In this day and age of corporate sponsorships often intertwining and ultimately propelling events by selling artists' "cool" - some kind of interesting (and confusing) standard is being set by the Axe: One Night Only tour featuring Lunice, Chiddy Bang and Diplo. The tour headed to undisclosed venues in select cities, with information and free tickets only announced via AXE on both Facebook and Twitter.
Roughly two weeks ago, when word first hit the Internet that St. Louis was one of the stops on a short college campus tour, the news quickly spread about the Mad Decent God, Diplo, coming to town. Bound together by a mix of social media frenzy (employing both Facebook and Twitter) and word of mouth, AXE's marketing campaign resulted in a technological scavenger hunt. The day before the show, the AXE bus visited "hot spots" around town with strict giveaway times.
That day, I managed to speak with a few people at one of the ticket drop locations, just outside of R-Sole shoe store on Delmar.
"I just saw a line and decided to get in it," said one person. "I like Chiddy Bang, and I don't know how to pronounce the other one [Diplo]!"
Local DJ Billy Brown expressed frustration over the unfortunate fact that he wasn't given a ticket even after following the van all over town before ultimately having to submit to his work schedule. Fortunately, he made it this time.
As a small line formed, an Axe spokesperson gave the crowd the run down - "When you get in line, you'll receive your M&Ms and two tickets. Make sure to bring a member of the opposite sex! The energy you bring to the show will be given back to you by Diplo!" M&Ms? Members of the opposite sex? What kind of cross-marketing angle were they going for here?
At 8:45 p.m. on the Friday evening of the show, a long line had formed outside of the Firebird. Comprising an eclectic mix of moombahton heads, college students, clubgoers and an entire St. Louis DJ contingent, the line collectively wriggled in anticipation. When one concertgoer was asked how he had found out about the evening's event, he replied "I heard about it from my friend who is a DJ (Noah of the club night EASY)."
"I live next to Wash. U. and I found out about the show from the RFT," said another. As the line continued to grow out of sight's end, local DJ Anna Zachritz exclaimed, "It's kind of like when the Wal-Mart came to town!"
iPhones out and Twitter feeds abuzz, it appeared that AXE's marketing had touched a nerve with the new technological age. As the eager crowd waxed and waned, local DJ Corey McCarthy noted that up-and-coming producer Jay Fay must've gotten in early as a result of his tweet.
As the clock neared the 9 p.m. mark, many were in fear of missing out on under-appreciated (and under-promoted) opening act Lunice. Slated to perform roughly around 8:30 to 9 p.m., the audience was relieved Firebird management noted that the event was running a bit behind.
Finally entering the club, many were surprised to see a relatively sparse crowd, as the entrance process proceeded at a slow pace. Although the event was 18+, a heavy line formed at the bar, revealing a one-drink minimum much to the chagrin of those 21-and-over. A live Axe twitter feed projected against one wall as an AXE "photo shoot" was backdropped against another. With the stage set with two large "AXE: One Night Only Tour" signs, the crowd could not help but feel overloaded with a visual assault by the evening's corporate sponsors. So the game goes.
Lunice hit the stage close to 9:15 p.m., as the crowd witnessed the 23-year old producer begin his set with a simple "swag" vocal sample played to the melody of Frederic Chopin's "Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35." It's a tough task as a relatively unknown opening for an internationally renowned, Grammy-nominated producer/DJ like Diplo, but Lunice's elegantly executed hip-hop/crunk mix proved that he could stand on his own ground. Effortlessly blending bass heavy hits like 2 Chainz' "I Spend It" and Waka Flocka's "Round of Applause" with his own production, Lunice's set was characterized by hyphy glitch with a crunk sensibility. And man, did it bump.
Unique in his production, Lunice has earned growing recognition through the use of the dark romanticism of downbeat hip-hop, gracefully mixed with panty dropping bass. In the middle of the set, the crowd could not help but swoon over a quick cameo from Diplo as he swayed across the stage, equipped with a shit-eating grin. Matching the audience's enthusiasm, Lunice's energy won over those unfamiliar as he ran through, ceremoniously handing out swag. Riling up the crowd with Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy," a gaggle of painfully-underage, basketball jersey clad teens recited the hit line-for-line in perfect unison. As he winded down his set, he told the crowd "I got one more" as he dropped Aaliyah's "More Than A Woman," before bringing it to a haunting crawl. Filling up by the minute, the Firebird's diverse crowd mirrored each other with matching facial expressions: "Who are these young ass kids?" vs. "Who are these old people?" Managing the crowd to the best of their ability, the staff at the Firebird continued to do an exceptional job as they escorted out a small group of underage trouble makers as a result of their canteen full of booze.
Chiddy Bang mounted the stage for its sound check at 10:20 p.m. as one of the AXE touring managers pumped up the crowd while simultaneously touting AXE's products. Shortly thereafter, the duo of Chidera "Chiddy" Anamege and Noah "Xaphoon Jones" Beresin launched into "Breakfast," the title track from their 2012 album. Chiddy Bang's brand of light-hearted hip-hop comes with a certain degree of cheesiness and college/indie appeal, emanating in a perfect mix of shiny pop and self-reflective lyricism. Throngs of arms waved wildly in the air as the group ran through its catalog of party anthems. "St. Louis - What's poppin'?!" shouted Anamege as he amped the crowd. As expected, the "college" crowd danced to favorites "Truth" (which samples Passion Pit's "Better Things") and "Opposite of Adults" (borrowing the saturated pop melody of MGMT's "Kids"). "Tonight's been the most intimate show of the tour - It's a beautiful thing." said Anamege with an earnest smile.
Tangible excitement mounted in the growing crowd as the concert instantaneously transitioned from hip-hop pop show to brainless rager. After casually walking onto the stage, the man of the hour addressed the crowd - "St. Louis, I don't know what I'm gonna play - I'm gonna play some dumb retarded shit right now." The crowd erupted with a resounding scream, communing in sweat and vibrant energy. Rallying the audience with another bout of corporate swag, AXE reps assaulted the crowd with magnum-sized foam glowsticks, resulting in a sea of mesmerizing streaks of technicolor vision. He performs over 300 nights a year, so it's hard to imagine Diplo in anything but top form. By nature, he was immediately locked in, allowing the crowd to experience a true master at work.
While the current state of EDM DJs warps toward a hard-hitting, seismic drop, Diplo's penchant for propulsive house shines through as he brings his mixes to a mounting climax only to be followed by the classic 808 of deep house. His seamless mixes weave in and out of the soul, bringing split-second samples and one-line verses into his trademark stream-of-consciousness remixes. Diplo's set at the Firebird was as diverse as the crowd before him as he dropped pounds of dubstep interspersed between Tyler The Creator's "Yonkers" and Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."
The evening continued with Diplo paying homage to former homegirl, M.I.A. with a quick injection of "Paper Planes" before moving into Yung Joc's "Goin Down" - complete with a dubstep treatment on the tail end. Up and down and down and out, Diplo furiously careened the crowd from side to side with effortless mixes of Major Lazer and into the universally-infectious "Sandstorm" by Darude. Fist pumps and human waves filled the air as Diplo continuously asked "St. Louis, Y'all doin' alright?"
Shortly after midnight, Diplo geared up for his new song "Express Yourself" by inviting a few girls up on stage. "St. Louis let me see your hands in the air!" shouted Diplo, as the girls gave it their booty-poppin' best. Judging the contest, Diplo handed out a t-shirt to a crowd favorite before saying "Now you gotta really dance though." Escalating synth arppegiation riled up the audience as Diplo invited Chiddy Bang back on stage for the new bump anthem.
The night zoomed on through a barrage of hyper crunk hits all remixed with the signature Diplo treatment: Lil Jon's "Get Low," YC's "Racks," and Drake's "The Motto." Appeasing the thug in us all, Diplo shouted "I can't stop! St. Louis, How the fuck are you doing?" before dropping Waka Flacka's "Hard In Da Paint" and the chart-topping "Look At Me Now" (produced by Diplo & Afrojack). It's no secret that Diplo's constant consumption of club bangers would make for some unexpected surprises. Mixing in Blur's "Song 2," Diplo had the audience right where he wanted them. At roughly 12:40 p.m., he let the crowd know that he was "just getting warmed up."
As the night trudged on, the once colossal crowd had diminished into a dwindling cluster of those in it for the long haul. Reaching the 2-hour mark, the show neared the end with Juicy J's "Who Da Neighbors," a recent staple in Diplo's sets. Although the crowd may have endured more than they had bargained for, it was apparent that Diplo had done them in, the right way: Ringing ears, a smile on the face, and a bag full of AXE swag. What just happened?