Robert DeLong + Ghost Beach
(12 Sep 2013: Music Hall of Williamsburg New York)
These days, you’ll find that a lot of electronic music producers, from Daft Punk to Skrillex to Disclosure, bring in guest vocalists to give their music extra flare. These efforts work to varying degrees, and nothing is wrong with that especially if they succeed, but the addition of guests makes it harder to tour and perform the songs live.
In contrast to that stands Robert DeLong, a complete one-man band package if there ever was one—plus he’s developed his own branding. To describe his stage presence, you must start with his gear. DeLong’s equipment takes up most of stage—the man runs back and forth between his drum kit, his drum pads, his laptops and his synths. Its an extensive setup and its impressive to see him create or recreate the songs off his album Just Movement. At other times he takes to the front of the stage to waggle his Wii-mote or pummels a joystick to create new squelches. The video game related stuff may seem gimmicky, but its not the forefront of his music—this isn’t a set built on chiptunes, you’ll recognize the effects from his hand gestures as layers compounded upon the music. Finally, you look at his brand, built around day-glow orange, there is an ‘X’ that features on his laptops and merch and he paints his face with squiggles in the same color, even going as far as bringing face-painters to his shows so the audience can wear some paint. Colorful geometric shapes and Xs made up almost the entirety of the projected backdrop.
DeLong’s single album is the impressive, Just Movement, unencumbered by guest vocalists (okay, save for “Perfect”) or other meandering and pandering tracks. While the title of one of his songs may be “Complex by Degrees”, his music is simple and honest—it is fun and will get your body moving. And that’s just what happened for those in attendance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
The opener Ghost Beach did a good job paving the way though with their electronic and poppy, what they call “tropical grit pop”, set (perhaps that explains the mini-palm trees that adorned the stage). A hometown duo, Josh Ocean and Eric “Doc” Mendelsohn demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm busting out funky song after funky song that had the audience clapping and dancing (at least those so far lucky enough to make it past the slow will-call line and get in). It could have been a Miami club but instead, it was New York and the band had a couple of treats. One song had been reserved strictly for the NY audience, the line went something like “I need a heart beat”, and wasn’t performed elsewhere on tour supposedly. Then they had a friend join in to provide her vocals (being local she didn’t appear at other tour stops) on the band’s new single “Miracle”.
During the changeover, as DeLong’s equipment was prepared, it was DeLong himself on stage (somewhat hidden in a hoodie) ensuring the cables were connected and everything was up and running. After a little bit longer, he finally made his way onto stage to begin with “Change How You Feel”, chopping up his vocals and thrusting them at the audience. Soon after, the music transformed into his near-classic anthem “Global Concepts”, with its inquisitive and yet authoritative line, “did make you fucking dance?”. If you aren’t dancing to this song, clearly something is wrong. DeLong hammered on his drum pads, face lost behind his long hair.
While DeLong was performing his original works, I was surprised to hear him throw in a few recognizable samples. A portion of Moby’s “Natural Blues” (or maybe the original gospel song that was sampled), was used before a voice-over interlude that asked “Can you fucking feel it?”, before warning, “If you cannot feel anything then get the fuck over yourself and get down on the dance floor you piece of shit” and spouted out other funny bits like DeLong is a member of Limp Bizkit and he is related to Tim Allen. There was a repeated stretch of the Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime” plus other brief samples, so quick I can’t even be certain I heard them, included the orchestral buildup in The Beatles “A Day in the Life” and a bit of Jonsi’s (from a Sigur Rós) vocal.
Other highlights included “Happy”, DeLong’s newest single, for which the members of Ghost Beach came back on stage for a very brief and very bouncy percussive section and exited as the headliner stood with his Wii-mote raised high. For his penultimate number, DeLong did a take on Filter’s “Take My Picture” which didn’t sound strange given that the track was once remixed by the breakbeat driven group Hybrid though I’d be curious to know why he does it.
For his conclusion, in an unexpected turn of events, DeLong brought out an acoustic guitar to perform a song with the line “That’s what we call love”. It became clear DeLong has many gifts, The man clearly has fun on stage and his intentions are even more transparent.