Review by Trevor Talley. Photos by Kristie Bocanegra.
I knew it was happening, I’d even had a few brief brushes with it before, but until I saw that sea of ’80s Day-Glo caps and t-shirts on dudes that looked like high school football players, I didn’t fully understand the extent of the thing. Electronic music is now fully mainstream with the kids of America’s high schools, and for this writer, the Avicii show on Monday January 16 at the Austin Music Hall showed just how true that statement is. The show came in the middle of Avicii’s House for Hunger tour, a country-spanning trip with shows in most major cities and from which the artist plans to donate $1 million to buy food for hungry Americans at the end of the tour. On the one hand, the show was an unequivocal success for electronic music and music as a whole, and on the other, it was a fascinating if somewhat worrying look into the future of the genre.
Your typical electronic music show is plenty full of teenagers, but until the last two or three years, these were almost exclusively of the “out of the mainstream” variety. We’re talking ravers, burners, hip nerds, candy kids, and just generally those with a penchant for the different and weird. The Avicii crowd, my friends, was not that crowd. Since acts like Deamau5 and Skrillex have blown up electro and dubstep in the mainstream world, it’s become more and more acceptable for anyone to listen to electronic music. I believe that I saw the physical manifestation of that sea change at the Avicii show, with mostly normal-looking kids under 21 showing up and engaging in what seemed like a watered-down version of raving which included a few staples like glowsticking but with much less crazy outfits and makeup.
That’s not to say these kids didn’t get down to the music, they just do it a little different. Toddy B was up on the decks when I entered Austin Music Hall, pumping out a set of mostly club house and electro that favored an interesting beat and a bit of melody over vocals, and the young crowd was just eating it up. It was truly great seeing kids outside of the typical electronic scene getting down to something other than dubstep and the poppier, more commercial end of electro. Toddy definitely had the whole crowd rocking, and a few of his drops and transitions caused enough of a ruckus that I was wondering if we’d hit peak energy for the night more than once before the main act even came out.
Toddy B wasn’t alone on stage, however, as he switched off every few tracks with local talent Allen Tagle. Usually opening acts just do their thing, unplug and let the next guy take over, but Tagle and Toddy were bouncing around stage and playing off each other’s energy, which only made the show better for the crowd. Tagle played a bit more pared down house music, playing tracks that focused on a few simple yet catchy elements, which played perfectly against Toddy’s tracks which became more and more punchy and drop-heavy as the night amped up. Ego-less, audience-centric moves like these guys sharing the stage are what make me love Austin DJs, and with talent like that of Toddy B and Allen Tagle to back it up, it made for a perfect set up for the main act.
When the young star of the night showed up on stage, it was obvious that the equally young if not younger crowd considered him a super star. It’s still weird to see this kind of reaction to something other than a band, and at the other shows I’ve been to with acts with this level of mainstream support (cough..Skrillexcough), it hasn’t been something I felt the act was worthy of. Rather quickly, however, Avicii proved that he was deserving of the title by throwing out electro-influenced house tracks that makes our American electro seem even more gimmicky and cheap than it already does. Even despite the power cutting out on the whole stage twice right at the beginning of the show, Avicii managed to keep the energy in the stratosphere, which is no mean feat. Part of the credit has to be given to the crew running the light show, which was some top-notch blinking, strobing and beaming that perfectly matched the music. The best moment of the night came when Avicii dropped his megahit “Le7els” and the people running the lights pulled out all the stops, instantly causing the crowd to go into a frenzy.
Toddy B summed up the feeling of the night perfectly when, with a wild grin on his face, he screamed “We sold out this bitch on a Monday!” It was hugely surprising and impressive to see such a large, young, atypical crowd show up for a rather pricey show, but maybe it shouldn’t be so shocking anymore. This show proves that the world of electronic music has merged with that of popular music, and we’ve got a whole new set of fans to party with. The worry is that these kids will only follow the trends and hype without bothering to find out about the history and scope of the genre, but if they keep making ridiculously skilled artists like Avicii into superstars, we might not have anything to worry about.