by Eric Pulsifer (@supercooleric)
The smartphone app RedLaser is used by many to seek out the best deals, but no app was needed to find the best ticket Sunday night in Austin. Chromeo played a free show for fans and SXSW Interactive attendees at the RedLaser party at Whitley Warehouse, the home of last year’s Perez Hilton party and tonight’s Zynga party featuring Sleigh Bells and TV on the Radio.
As its name implies, Whitley Warehouse is a warehouse, which essentially turns into a humid concrete box when you pack in 1,000 or so hot, jumping drunkards. It was a sweatbox, but it was a well-lit one, thanks to rainbow-colored lasers dancing above the crowd before the show and Chromeo’s impressive lighting setup — columns lined with yellow flash bulbs that silhouette the duo from behind.
The Whitley is a huge venue but is broken down into three major spaces. The setup made for a much more intimate show than Chromeo’s usual Austin stop, Stubb’s.
If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’d like to rant about free drinks. I love beer as much as the next guy, and, heck, when it’s free, that’s about the best thing in the world in my book—just behind watching kittens sleep, the smell of al pastor, and the sweet sound of Thom Yorke. However, people’s SXSW party priorities baffle me. The math is simple: Drinks are cheap, concerts are not. I dropped around $40 last time I saw Chromeo and had maybe consumed $12 worth of beer. Therefore, if I can see an amazing band for free, wouldn’t it make sense to pick them over a “DJ” rocking out to an iTunes playlist with free watered down vodka drinks and beer?
I can get drunk any time I’d like with just a few minutes notice, but I can’t see a band like Chromeo on a whim. This is my logic in picking SXSW parties, though, judging from the 10s of 1,000s of followers the Twitter accounts dedicated to freebies at SXSW (full disclosure: I’m a hypocrite and follow them all) I may be in the minority in that belief.
All that to say, drinks weren’t free, but we got to see Chromeo for free, so you know, deal with it.
Chromeo took to the stage around 11 p.m., (unfortunately not ushered out by the Chromeo chant). The duo’s music plays not so subtle homage to many ‘80s classics — a gentleman in the crowd behind me asked his friends if they were a band from the ‘80s. As the band is custom to do, they opened “Bonafied Lovin,” arguably one of their most infectious tracks, with the riff from Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing,” the song that serves as the inspiration for “Bonafied Lovin” (as made crystal clear by the song’s music video).
Dave 1 is a ridiculously charismatic French Canadian James Dean-type in black leather and a white tee. His eyes hidden behind black wayfarers, Dave effortlessly controlled the crowd as always. Paired with P-Thugg, the two are unstoppable — showing an unbelievable mastery of the hard-to-pin-down magic that allows a performer to get a group of strangers to participate in a drunken game of Simon Says, directing clapping and raised hands and jumping at just the right times. (There was also a notably excessive amount making out in the audience—I don’t know if it’s the first taste of spring that’s got Austinites feeling frisky or if people were really just digging the show.)
Dave’s constant and contagious grin turned south for a brief period of technical difficulties, but the crowd cheered and clapped on as the sound from the PA slowed to a trickle. PA problems popped up again in a few more songs, but the band didn’t seem to miss a beat.
Drawn back out for an encore by the aforementioned Chromeo chant, the band returned for Business Casual’s “Grow Up,” a track that so closely resembles Huey Lewis and the News’ “Stuck With You” that it might as well be a cover. Dave included some call and response action with the crowd, joking, “This is South by Southwest Interactive, after all.”
Chromeo plays again on Friday, March 18 at the Green Label Sound Showcase at La Zona Rosa with MNDR and The Cool Kids. Chromeo’s most recent album, Business Casual, is available now on slick white vinyl. RedLaser is available for free for iPhone and Android.