Chromeo returning to Aspen for DJ set at Belly Up
IF YOU GO …
What: Chromeo DJ Set
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Saturday, Aug. 25, 9:30 p.m.
How much: $35/general admission; $65/reserved
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
Most of the time when a music festival or club hosts a big-name act for a “DJ set,” it’s a recipe for disappointment.
All of us music fans, in recent years, have had the dispiriting experience of anticipating something special, then seeing a favorite Big Name take the stage for a DJ set with a drink in hand and an entourage, plug their iPhone into a console and let a playlist go while they hang out onstage and ignore the audience.
Chromeo, the Montreal-based electro-funk duo, is an exception.
Even if guitarist/vocalist Dave 1 and keyboardist/talkbox master P-Thugg simply shared a playlist, it’d be worth witnessing. The duo, in its original music, brilliantly pastiches the old sounds of ’80s funk and cheese rock and a heavy dose of Hall and Oates and hip-hop attitude. They’ve studied this material deeply, broken it down, deconstructed it, and built Chromeo from the shattered neon pieces.
So peeling back the onion of influence — as the Chromeo DJ set at Belly Up Aspen on Saturday, Aug. 25 promises to — should be a fun and freaky ride.
The duo have become regulars around here, headlining some of the the highest profile shows in Aspen in recent years: X Games at Buttermilk in 2015, followed by two straight New Year’s Eves at Belly Up.
Their live shows double as pure entertainment — self-mocking, silly dance parties — and as an oddball intellectual exercise. Their aggressively tongue-in-cheek hits like “Jealous (I Ain’t With It),” “Sexy Socialite” and “Fancy Footwork” can be enjoyed as straight-up great songs or as elaborate jokes. Truth is, they’re both.
Dave 1, until the band broke big with the 2014 album “White Women,” was on his way to earning a Ph.D in French literature at Columbia University. Before the band’s first New Year’s show here, he told me about how his work in semiotics and literary theory helped birth the Chromeo concept.
“We knew that our canon would be this funk music from the late ’70s into the ’80s, and we studied what was used to do it, what the tropes were, and we wanted to subvert it,” he explained, “to make it sound like they were done by two goofy kids from Canada, which we were.”
He explained how the pair took the signifiers and symbols of the the poppiest of pop music from the late disco and early-yacht rock era and added in touches of classic rock and hip-hop excess to make something new that could walk a tightrope between irony and sincerity, between parody and homage. Playing around with the most universal music on Earth is fertile ground for the band.
“At every wedding and bar mitzvah in the last 20 years, they’ve played Michael Jackson and Kool & the Gang and Prince. And every dentist’s office across the universe plays Hall and Oates and Phil Collins,” he said. “So it was only a matter time before people went, ‘Hey, this is universal music that everybody likes and that’s fun and kind of quirky and genius.’”
So think of a Chromeo DJ set like a night with the best wedding or bar mitzvah DJs on the planet. And we can probably count on them to mix in some material from their new album, “Head Over Heals,” released in June with guest vocals from the likes of D.R.A.M. and The-Dream in service of a classically excessive Chromeo electro-funk odyssey.
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