Flume - Webster Hall - 9/11/13
Better Than: The Adventurers Down Under.
"Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!" the audience chanted as keyboard crooner Chet Faker ambled onstage at Webster Hall, and what would have been your run-of-the-mill Wednesday night shitshow suddenly turned into Australia Night. Both Faker (whose real name is Nicholas James Murphy) and electronic wunderkind, Mad Decent affiliate, and headliner Flume (who, as you might have guessed, is named after the Bon Iver song) hail from Down Under; unlike Flume, this was Chet Faker's first time performing in the U.S. He was unassuming in his orange beanie and straightforward banter--"It's hot" or "I'm playing seven songs and one of them's a cover. This one's the cover"--especially compared to Flume's block-rockin' bass and background visuals of two naked prepubescents making out, but his tank-top-clad, LED-glow-glove-wearing audience didn't seem to mind waiting for the drop.
They've got good reasons to be excited about their countrymen. Both Chet Faker and Flume became internet-famous because of isolated instances: Faker covered Blackstreet's 1996 hit "No Diggity" (that one was the cover) and Flume bumped One Direction from the top of the Australian iTunes charts with his single "Sleepless." Since then, their careers have taken off in different directions. Flume has been steadily gaining followers since playing SXSW in March, going from 150-capacity shows to festival stages at Roskilde and selling out Webster Hall. Murphy has kept a lower profile, recording a song with New York singer Kilo Kish and working on his debut album. They're good foils for each other, especially together. When Murphy came back out to encore with Flume for "Left Alone," a cut from the former's self-titled debut he guests on, it was a great moment for Australian solidarity, but it also gave some spontaneity to Flume's set. Until there was a live vocalist, at times it felt like the producer was just replaying his album in a different order.
Which isn't necessarily a bad thing--a song like "Insane," with its tip-toeing intro, Moon Holiday's silken slow-motion enunciation, and a beat that cyclones to an epic hammer drop of a climax, was meant for a live setting--and the surging, sweating sea of people with their hands in the air were enjoying themselves. It just gets a little old when Flume's sets for Boiler Room, Los Angeles' FYF Fest, and Webster Hall are pretty much exactly the same. He even spiced things up the same way: each time, he mashed up Biggie's "Juicy" with his own instrumentals, played his What So Not project's remix of "Get Free", and tried out some new material. To his credit, the visuals were spectacular--Speed Racer graphics, hi-res glamor shots of his female guest vocalists, and glowing hexagonal shapes that pulsed in time with the music. That, laptop artists, is how it should be done.
But Chet Faker was ultimately more interesting to watch. At first it seemed like his full band would be a bit of a buzzkill after opener Touch Sensitive, an electronic musician with a bass guitar slung across his chest who specializes in Eurythmics-cum-Kavinsky tracks named "Pizza Guy." But it was a nice break, and a pleasant surprise listening to his live interpretation of his 2012 album Thinking in Textures. Murphy learned how to sing while listening to Motown records and his dad's Balearic jams, and he blends the two into smooth, slightly jazzy R&B. Doesn't sound that great on paper, I know, but on record it would be the perfect post-Flume comedown. And onstage, it distinctly lowered the temperature of the room, bathing even the "orange chicks" in flattering blue light. It's sexy stuff.
But by the end of the night, no matter who was onstage, it was still pretty damn hot in that room.
Overheard: "Lots of cheap drugs and lots of young bodies!"
Critical Bias: Flume's real name is Harley.
Random Notebook Dump: Not to be a Debbie downer to the shirtless guy and his girlfriend drinking bottle after bottle of water, but the recent spate of Molly-related deaths might be something to think about.
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