Robert Delong – Weirdly Great and Greatly Weird.

Robert DeLong may not be the hardest working musician ever, but he is definitely one of the hardest working musicians when actually on stage. While I would certainly classify him as an electronic artist, his range goes far beyond what many people think of when they think of EDM (i.e. “pressing buttons”).

DeLong’s sound is diverse, ranging from house to indie to moombahton to rock. But even more diverse than his sound is his stage setup. Like many others, his laptop provides a backing track. Unlike many others, he has multiple drum kits, as well as several drum pads. He has video game controllers rigged to produce sound when he plays them; he sings, including looping his own voice during the show; he plays guitar; he plays keyboards; he probably uses instruments that I don’t even have a vocabulary for. He is never static, bouncing from equipment to equipment, probably accruing more steps during a 60 minute performance than I do in a full day of FitBit tracking. He is a jack of all trades and master of all of them, too.

Curious as to how this all works? Check out the video below, where he goes back and forth between vocals, drums, keys, and a Wiimote.

Did you notice the face paint in that video? (How could you not?) That, too, is a staple of Robert Delong shows. His face always has a cool, geometric, blacklight-sensitive design on it, and if you want to join in on the fun, yours will too.

When I saw DeLong in 2015, a woman approached me during the show and asked me a question, and I had no idea what she was saying so I just shook my head. It wasn’t until later on that I realized that she was asking me if I wanted my face painted. I tried to find her again, but no luck. I looked around at my fellow concert-goers, jealous. When I went to see Robert DeLong at the South Street Seaport (for free!) last week, I was determined not to make the same mistake again.

Booyah

This show was so fun and buoyant and I am endlessly impressed by the range of his talents and by the community feel of his small but mighty fans. Check out his most famous track, “Global Concepts,” below, or get all your Robert DeLong goodness over at http://robertdelong.com/. And next time he comes through NYC, come get funky with me!

How To Watch A Band Blow Up

In May of 2014, I went to The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg to see a little band from Seattle called Odesza. The venue, still one of my favorites, holds roughly 300 people, and the show cost $12. It was a fun evening with a friend I don’t see super often. The band was great; the music was ethereal and poppy; the crowd dancing but well-mannered.

18 months later, Odesza sold out a 3-night run at Terminal 5, a space that holds 3,000 people. I considered myself lucky to get a ticket and was somewhat in awe of what this little duo had become.

It is now 3 years after my first Odesza show, and they just announced a concert later this year at the Barclays Center, a stadium that holds 18,000 people. There is no doubt in my mind that it will sell out. Odesza has officially arrived.

I have strange feelings about this. I don’t resent the band’s success, because they deserve it. Their music is light and fun and extremely catchy. If you’re able to stand up close during live performances, both members (Harrison and Clay) drum live which is really exciting. Yet it just feels so crazy to me. I have never been the hipster who discovers the cool new music before everyone else (I’m still not; I was invited to my first Odesza show by my friend Natalie – so if you want to know who the next huge band is, check with her).

This past weekend I attended Electric Forest, my favorite music festival, where Odesza was scheduled to headline on the second night. Though there are 6 major stages (and a few minor ones) at Forest with constant music playing, it felt like everyone was planning on hitting this set. Out of curiosity, I checked the festival app, where you could see how many people had added any given act to their personal schedule. Bassnectar, an act so popular that Electric Forest has given him a permanent residency, had 21,000 people scheduled. Odesza, by contrast, had 22,000.

I was running late for Odesza’s Forest set, so by the time I arrived it was so crowded I had to stand so far back I was “in another state basically,” as I texted a friend who was trying to meet me. I finally settled in, and while I couldn’t see Harrison or Clay, I could see the giant stage setup and intense lights that are only afforded to a major festival’s closing acts. My view looked like this:

While Odesza is only two people, this show, and I imagine many of their other shows these days, now feature “The Odesza Horns” and “The Odesza Drumline.”

This teeny little band that I saw in 2014 at a teeny little venue now has a drumline. A drumline with a formal name. Absolute insanity.

I know a lot of people who are truly moved by music, but to be totally honest, there’s not a lot of music that really stirs my soul. I love music, of course, but the really emotional moments for me have typically been the connections I’ve made with people at music events more than the music itself.

Yet this time, as I stood alone watching this set progress, I was touched. By the end of the set, I realized that I was standing with my hands pressed together underneath my nose, in a stance of pure overwhelmedness (it’s a word; I say so). There were tears in my eyes, and I had no idea why. I couldn’t have told you if I was happy or sad or surprised or afraid; I was just emotional. The music was beautiful, the lights were majestic, and there was something, just something, about the horns that really tied it all together for me. And all I could think about was this little band from Seattle in this little venue in Brooklyn, and how far they’ve come. 50,000 people attend Electric Forest; it seemed like 40,000 of them were there at the Ranch Arena stage that night.

I was almost out of range when I realized Odesza was performing an encore, so I turned around to catch the end of the set and was able to see the full crowd from the side. There were totems and glow outfits as far as the eye could see and I managed to record a few seconds of the song that was playing, which ironically is not an actual Odesza song and is way more intense than their usual sound. Yet it felt big and important in that moment (it’s the horns, I tell you).

I’m curious as to where Odesza will go from here. As a band that has found an intense fan base that spans both the mainstream music world and the little electro-corner of the universe I reside in, it feels like they’re on the path to even more mega stardom. I feel oddly humbled just to even be a witness to their skyrocketing to greatness. “This is so surreal for us,” they said at the end of their Forest set. So I imagine they’re pretty humbled too. And there are a lot of us out there who are looking forward to whatever is next for these 2 guys from Seattle, who probably never saw any of this coming.

Meeting Odesza, June 2015

Lorde at Governors Ball was EVERYTHING

I officially kicked off the 2017 festival season by attending the first day of Governors Ball here in New York City. I was looking forward to seeing Chance the Rapper, Flume, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, and a special DJ set from Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem.

But most of all, I was looking forward to Lorde. I love Lorde and have been waiting very patiently for her to return to performing after a 3-year-but-seemed-longer hiatus.

When Lorde took the stage at Governors Ball last night, she seemed to be her old, eccentric, somewhat inaccessible self, singing from beneath a white veil because Lorde does not even need a reason, you guys.

After the first song (and veil removal), however, it was apparent that this was not the same Lorde that I saw at Roseland Ballroom (RIP) 3 years ago. This is new and improved Lorde. Lorde 2.0.

Lorde 2.0 is 20 years old now, and while she had an amazing voice as a teenager, the additional 3 years have added so much maturity and depth to her singing.

Lorde 2.0 has matured in other ways, as well. As a teenager her stage presence was brooding, mostly quiet but occasionally sharing, in a somber voice, the deeply emotional stories behind her songs. Now she has more between-song banter and a much happier, brighter outlook. She seemed both excited and humbled to be on stage and possessed a natural enthusiasm that made you want to be her best friend. She remarked on the perfect weather and thanked everyone profusely for sharing in the moment with her.

Lorde’s music has evolved along with her persona. Her 2013 album Pure Heroine was a collection of mellow, electro-pop hits. Her new album, Melodrama, which drops in 2 weeks, is more upbeat and classically pop. The single “Green Light,” released in March and which closed out her Governors Ball set, is a straight up banger.

The production value of Lorde’s GovBall set was higher than that of either time that I saw her as a solo act. Earlier, her performances involved only her, standing and singing. She drew you in with her strange, jerky movements and intrigued you with the darkness of her personality. Now her show involves modern dancers, performing behind her in an elevated transparent box.

Most shocking of all was the fact that Lorde’s set ended in fireworks. I would not, in 2014, have ever foreseen a Lorde show involving any type of pyrotechnics. She was not that kind of artist and it would have made zero sense. But last night, it fit.

I was looking forward to Lorde’s set at Governors Ball but didn’t know how much it would blow me away. As a performer she is magnetic, and for a full 60 minutes (inexplicably cut from a 75 minute scheduled set, wah) she had the entire audience captivated.

Lorde has not just been through a hiatus in the last 3 years; she’s been through an evolution. Her music is snappier, she radiates joy, and she aims to truly connect with her audience. She has grown from a teenager who created pop music into an actual pop star.

Artist Spotlight: Robert Delong

I used to make fun of Robert Delong, for no real reason other than that a music blogger I hated was obsessed with him. She posted about her love for this Seattle-born musician ad nauseum, and even though I enjoyed some of his fun, poppy music, my complete loathing of her writing made me write him off as corny.

Last September, I scored a free pass to see Robert Delong at Rough Trade in Williamsburg, and I went because, hey, FREE. And also, despite my misgivings about him, one of his songs is on my yet-to-be-published list of my top 10 favorite ever bass drops.

Comes in right around the 40 second mark. Love it.

My impressions of the show, and a pretty solid summary of Robert Delong’s deal in general, are reflected in the comments I made in my concert spreadsheet after the show:

“Holy shit this guy is incredible. I always thought he was such a weird cheeseball but in actuality he is a machine and a one man band. He does everything – loops his own vocals, 2 drum kits, other weird sounds via what look like video game controllers, all the mixing, EVERYTHING. Hot damn. Plus, face paint?!?”

It’s true. Delong really never stops moving or creating. Whether he’s looping his own voice or playing on video game controllers or drumming or actually just singing (which he does as well, of course), he’s running back and forth yet never seems frantic or out of control. I cannot even imagine the amount of work that goes into creating each of his songs, as he does almost all of the work live, compared to many other electronic artists who use a base track and then just manipulate the sound somewhat. His overall feel is house-y at times but really heavy on the drums in a way that’s far more exciting than standard house music – at times it almost gets down into a moombahton vibe.

When I had the opportunity to see Robert Delong again at Terminal 5 over the weekend, I jumped at it. In fact, it was the first time I successfully got a ticket to a show off the Jukely wait list (woohoo!). I was not disappointed.

The one sad thing I have to say about my 2 experiences with Robert Delong was the face paint situation. Delong’s own face is painted at all of his shows – often with an orange X, which is his logo – and his street team goes around painting faces in the audience as well. When I saw him at Rough Trade, I had no idea what was going on when a random girl approached me and showed me her paints. I was confused, and so I said no. A few minutes later when I finally realized what was happening, I was sad that I had declined the face paint, because I’m really just a giant child. And the girl was sadly long gone.

Robert Delong was only an opening act at the Terminal 5 show this weekend, and even though I had another concert to go to after, I was gung ho on getting my face painted. Only I never saw any face painters, either because I was too far back in the crowd, or maybe there just weren’t any since he wasn’t headlining. Bummer city.

The moral of the story is, don’t judge a musician by what a music blogger thinks of them, especially if it’s a blogger you hate (unless that music blogger is me – you should always take my word as the gospel because I have excellent taste in music).

Robert Delong is insanely talented, and I look forward to seeing him live again sometime soon. I will not rest until I get my face painted.

Artist Spotlight: Too Many Zooz

Too Many Zooz is a band that comes from the humblest of beginnings. A trio that got their start busking in the Union Square subway station, they recently sold out the 600-person capacity Brooklyn Bowl just a few short years after the band’s formation.

Too Many Zooz is comprised of David “King of Sludge” Parks on percussion, Matt Doe on trumpet, and Leo P. on the baritone sax, or as I like to call it, the “megasax.”

As someone who has openly supported the making up of music genres, I was happy to see that Too Many Zooz came up with their own terminology for their upbeat, often frenetic tunes: brass house. I think it describes them perfectly. Take a listen: 

For those of you who want the Too Many Zooz experience but refuse to listen to the full 11 minutes of that video, at least watch this short one in its entirety. Leo P. has some legendary sax dance moves, and they’re on full display here: 

Though I first heard of Too Many Zooz a year or so ago in the context of the somewhat similar band Moon Hooch, the Brooklyn Bowl show was my first time seeing them live. It was everything I expected and more, and I’d be surprised if this performance doesn’t make my top 10 best shows of 2016 list. From the band’s entrance wearing brightly colored fur coats to their high energy danceable songs to the man about 10 feet in front of me in the crowd triumphantly waving a full pitcher of beer in the air the entire time, the show left absolutely nothing left to be desired (except another show).

Too Many Zooz is in the process of creating a full length album, and if you have some spare change and want to help some talented artists bring their vision to light, send a few bucks their way via their Kickstarter (I did!).

While I wait for the new album to come out and for the release party that I get to attend as a Kickstarter backer (ahem), I might start spending some more time in Union Square, hoping to catch these guys on their home turf. They mentioned at the Brooklyn Bowl show that they don’t play in the subway too often anymore, and with their growing popularity, I can’t imagine that will change any time soon.

Where Are You? Haim

I first became aware of Haim in 2013 when I saw their name on the Lollapalooza lineup (though I didn’t actually catch their performance there). A folk/pop/rock band comprised of 3 Jewish sisters (woohoo!) from California, Haim – their last name – saw wide success a few years ago with their album, “Days Are Gone,” and garnered a ton of fans through their exciting live shows.

Photo via..the internet, somewhere

Photo via..the internet, somewhere

As the story goes, they grew up in a musical family, all started singing and playing instruments from a young age, and would regularly jam out in their living room before playing in cover bands with their parents, and eventually, in a band of their own.

Though I’m not typically fond of music that could even remotely be described as “folk,” Haim’s sound is pretty diverse. Their classic song, “The Wire,” is probably the folkiest track off “Days Are Gone.”

However, I really love “Let Me Go,” and “My Song 5,” both dark and edgy. “Let Me Go” is particularly exciting to see live, because it usually comes at the end of their sets and involves all 3 sisters in a crazy drumming frenzy.


Another charming element of their live shows is bassist Este (far left in the top photo), who does nearly 100% of the talking. She’s loud and crass, tells awkwardly funny stories, and, best of all, makes amazing faces when she plays bass. Her middle name is Arielle, which is also exciting to me for obvious – yet irrelevant – reasons.

Though I still listen to the “Days Are Gone” album regularly, I have to wonder – what are the Haim sisters up to these days? I haven’t heard much about them in a few years. All I can really recall is occasionally seeing photos of them hanging out with new bestie Taylor Swift.
taylor-and-haim-main
This is upsetting to me because the Haim girls seem really cool, fun and quirky and I just cannot stand Taylor Swift. She’s super bland and catty and yet she keeps adopting cool people as her friends (Lena Dunham is another Taylor Swift friend victim).

Aside from hanging out with TSwift, Haim has apparently been working on a new album since sometime in 2014. No real or recent updates in that regard, though.

Maybe hanging out with Taylor has taken their focus away from music for awhile, but I really hope that new album drops soon. I love this band and would be super happy to hear some fresh tunes from them.

Phantoms are the Next Odesza

In May of 2014, my friend and I went to see a little Seattle-based duo called Odesza at the Knitting Factory, a 300 person capacity venue in Williamsburg. Last weekend, one and a half years later, I saw them at Terminal 5 (capacity: 3000) during one of their three sold-out shows there.

Their rise has been meteoric, clearly. And 100% deserved, because Odesza is amazing. Even though they are hardly the most well-known act in my little music community, they’ve managed to transcend the electro-hippie crowd and branch out into the mainstream. I can think of a ton of acts who get better billing at the festivals I go to yet could probably not sell out even one, let alone three nights at Terminal 5.

But this blog post is not about Odesza (surprisingly). So I will start over.

In March of 2014 I went to the Bowery Ballroom (the site of my 2nd ever Odesza show, fun fact) to see Com Truise, who, if you’ve committed all my blog posts to memory which clearly you have, you will remember is terrible. After that show I came home and made a little note in my concert spreadsheet: “Phantoms were amazing!” I added them to my Bandsintown to track if they were ever coming back to New York, and promptly forgot about them.

Last night, after having been notified by my phone that they were in town, I went back to the Knitting Factory to see Phantoms open for another band I had never heard of. I had no recollection of what type of music it was or if it was a single person or a whole band or really anything except that Phantoms, whoever they were, were the bright spot on an otherwise subpar concert over a year earlier.

I walked in a little bit late (oops) and saw two 20-something guys playing a poppy type of electronica and doing live drumming. “They’re like Odesza!” I thought to myself before I had even found myself a spot in the crowd. (Odesza is also two guys in their 20s playing poppy electronica and live drumming). Though Odesza’s music is more ethereal and Phantoms has more of a deep house feel, the comparison between the two seemed immediately obvious to me and I’d be surprised if I were the only person to say it. A quick Google search yields no results for this so I am proclaiming “FIRST!” (that’s what the cool internet commenters do, right? I’m with it, I’m hip).

In any case, the show was really great, and yet again I thought Phantoms were far superior to the act that followed them. I particularly loved this rendition of that Fetty Wap song I hate, a) because it made the song good, and b) because their drumsticks lit up.

Love this @phantoms take on Fetty Wap. And LIGHT UP DRUMSTICKS!

A post shared by Arielle (@notthemermaid_) on

It seems that Phantoms, AKA the suit-clad Vincent Pergola and Kyle Kaplan, have already begun making a name for themselves back home in Los Angeles, but I’m excited to see where they go from here. If they follow along the path of Odesza and sell out Terminal 5 a year and a half after playing the Knitting Factory, I’ll be linking back to this post saying that I called it. Here’s hoping!

(And in the meantime, go download their new EP, Broken Halo, or go check them out on the last few stops of their tour!)