Major Lazer at First Avenue, 3/20/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Major Lazer with Lunice and Paul Devro
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The sold out Major Lazer crowd last night brought a festival's energy into the confined space of the First Avenue Mainroom. As they mined the sounds of roots reggae and Jamaican dancehall to co-mingle with drum and bass, dirty South, and electro (to name a few), Diplo's team put on an insanely live show that was startlingly unique.

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Slideshow: Major Lazer at First Avenue, 3/20/13

At the beginning, DJ Paul Dervo spun some decidedly reserved-tempo tracks that effectively warmed people up but didn't find them exuding too much energy initially, the crowd was gearing up for a crazy night. It was an effective intro, with a variety that included some EDM and some rap like Trinidad James, finding the spots where the genres mixed appropriately. A well-chosen DJ for the spot provided, he showcased the technical side of what the DJ's role was without aiming for too much flash.
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Lunice, on the other hand, had a hyped stage presence that dwarfed anyone else's in the crowd. Beginning his set by shouting "Who loves rap music?!" and following it up with an extended build of a synth that aped classical music. Confused what this had to do with rap after drawing it out for a good few minutes, he then switched into Big Sean's verse from "Mercy" and began pantomiming wildly to the audience. His set involved switching between his own beat work, which has a particular instrumental underground electronic vibe to it, and popular rap music, primarily from G.O.O.D. Music. The way he contextualized tracks and drew out verses was interesting at first, but wore thin quick thanks to lack of variety: I'd never really listened to Big Sean's verse on the "I Don't Like" remix super intently as I did here, which would have been more powerful had he not played the same song twice more and then the original again later. Lunice enjoyed running to the front to lip sync and toss his hands, as well as dramatically hit the buttons cuing the next song for emphasis. The energy was nice for a one-man DJ set, but some different songs could have brought this set to the next level.
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
When the cartoon introduction to the Major Lazer character played on the screen, the audience began to lose their shit and they never got it back. Immediately upon revealing themselves behind the screen, Diplo and his crew threw vuvuzelas into the crowd and said "If you like something, blow your horn." Horns blew throughout the night, accompanied with screams and hand claps and manic dancing. Diplo traded places with Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, all dressed in suits initially, throughout the night as DJing duties were switched with dancing or crowd-hyping duties. Mela Murder held down dancing duties the entire time, and her toned body showed off the her level of prominence in twerking.

The setlist quickly became impossible to maintain, as surprises like "Bugatti" and "Birthday Song" sat alongside Major Lazer originals like "When You Hear the Bassline" and "Bruk Out" in a way that blurred the line between a straight DJ set and an original production. The crew took their experience with hyping a massive festival crowd to the confined space of First Avenue, and brought out a number of techniques that worked like gangbusters on the raging mass of people crammed next to each other.

Cues to jump as high as you can, to strip off your shirt and wave it wildly in the air, to bring your body as low as it could go, to move to your extreme right or extreme left at each beat, and countless other crowd control techniques, brought the role of hypeman to a whole new degree. At one point, Mela Murder got to highlight her skills and take center stage, and Jillionaire asked that the audience not dance while she did. But when Diplo hit the drop, the whole place went from still to balls-out dumb as if they couldn't help themselves. 

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