X Games Aspen: ‘Better Not’ and beyond with Louis the Child
As Louis the Child played the opening notes of “Better Not” on Saturday night at X Games, the sell-out crowd of some 5,000 fans let out a collective roar. What seemed like 5,000 cellphone cameras immediately went up in the air, and hundreds of fans hopped on one another’s shoulders. All the way up the hillside at the temporary Buttermilk music venue, small squadrons of revelers broke out into dance circles.
With that kind of fevered response to Louis the Child’s runaway 2018 hit, the Chicago-based DJ duo could have made the performance a lazy build-up to that explosive moment with their massive hit. They could have, but they didn’t.
Louis the Child’s Robby Hauldren and Freddy Kennett aren’t those kinds of artists. They’re aiming to do something more with their genre-hopping, feel-good spin on EDM and the uniquely personal relationship they’re building with fans and the community that’s growing around their music.
Playing as the sun set behind Buttermilk, Louis the Child led sing-alongs through tracks like “Fire,” “Go,” “Love is Alive,” “Shake Something” and “Slow Down Love.” They featured remixes of tracks like Major Lazer’s “Be Together,” Ty Dollar $ign’s “Blasé” and Chance the Rapper’s “All Night.” But the show was more than the sum of its parts.
Before Louis the Child took the stage, a cellphone number flashed on the story-high video screen with an invitation to text the band. They walked on to a montage of home-movies of Hauldren and Kennett as children. Near the end of the performance, during a remix of their Elohim collaboration “Love,” they had this hard-partying young X Games crowd chanting “L-O-V-E!” and “T-R-U-S-T!”
Yeah, Louis the Child is aiming to create something intimate and sincere in the often impersonal and cold electronic music milieu. They’re using the built-in tensions and releases of the EDM form in some new ways. While many DJs simply yell at crowds to wave their hands, raise their middle fingers and jump, Louis the Child is urging them toward something like transcendence. For example, midway through the X Games set, Kennett invited the crowd to clear their heads: “Everybody put your hands in the air, just let go of everything – whatever’s on your mind.” As the crowd’s hands went up, the duo played a drawn-out ambient vocal sample, with a steady beat soon rising behind it into a clap-along passage, which Hauldren and Kennett then upended with a big, rattling bass drop that sent the crowd into a unified hop.
In an interview before the show, Kennett described the Louis the Child mission as “trying to connect people, create happy moments, make it not about me and Robby but about what kinds of connections we can make with other people and how we can help them realize what is making them happy and what is making them sad.”
See them live and you see what he means. With that kind of connection to fans, it’s no wonder they’re the first band ever to sell out an afternoon show at X Games.
Louis the Child plays again in Aspen on Sunday night downtown at Belly Up. The X Games venue will host sold-out shows from The Chainsmokers on Saturday night (9:30 p.m.) and Kygo on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m.).
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.