I haven’t been in the electronic music scene long enough to really know if this is a new thing or not, but in the last year or so I’ve seen a pretty big uptick in the concept of the “DJ set.” You know, where an artist gets on a computer and plays you whatever songs they feel like playing you. The same thing that you do when you throw parties in your apartment, only slightly more involved. Maybe.
I realize that the term “DJ” is thrown around a lot in this community and is often applied to people who are actually producers, but whatever you may call them, a DJ doing a DJ set is way different than a DJ doing their normal production. Largely because if you pay money to see a DJ/producer under regular circumstances, you expect to hear their music. But with DJ sets – and a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.
DJ sets are probably a really cool thing if it’s someone so insanely famous or otherwise meaningful enough to you that you’d just pay for the opportunity to be in a room with them. I would pay to see a DJ set by Kanye, Lady Gaga, Rivers Cuomo, or a whole host of other people just by virtue of who they are. But this doesn’t apply to most artists.
In the last 18 months, I’ve seen Chromeo do a DJ set 3 times. THREE TIMES. Number of times I have seen an actual Chromeo set: 0. I love Chromeo’s music. Dave 1 is even on my top 10 musician husbands list** (though he’s 2nd in line to be replaced if someone new comes along, but that’s a story for another day). But Chromeo’s DJ sets include a minimal amount of actual Chromeo songs and are typically kind of choppy, and if I’m going to hear 90s hip hop I’d rather just go to a bar and see it for free and by someone more experienced at it.
In the last few weeks I’ve seen both Bonobo and Hot Chip do DJ sets at Output. Bonobo started off with his classic, downtempo electro-hip hop vibe and then, an hour later, I realized that he had transitioned into a fairly generic house music set. Trickery. I got to Output in the middle of Hot Chip’s DJ set, and I was expecting at least a little of their 70s synthy sounding dance jams but what I got was…more generic house music.
I was just really grateful that I had picked up passes to both of these shows through the concert subscription service Jukely, because then I didn’t feel bad leaving early. But a lot of people paid for those shows! And for what? Unless those guys are people you consider EPIC enough to just want to be in their presence (which I don’t), it seems like a waste.
DJ sets are stupid. Give me some real production any day.