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Diplo @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest

June 26, 2013

Jun. 27, 2013
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The hyperbolic dread with which some Milwaukeeans greet the beginning of Summerfest can at times be as grating as all the traffic and hordes of drunken tourists, but that being said, there’s a lot to be gained by approaching the Big Gig as if it were some apocalyptic disaster, where societal norms break down and lawlessness reigns. The same survival strategies that would be beneficial to, say, battling C.H.U.D.s across the radioactive wastelands: waiting until nightfall, avoiding the main roads, and always having an exit strategy, are, along with plenty of beer, the keys to enjoyably catching a band at Summerfest. But the best laid plans can quickly go frustratingly awry, especially on the usually chaotic opening day, so the performer you’re going to see’s got to be worth all the bother, as, for the most part, DJ/producer Diplo was here tonight.

Rising to mainstream fame through his musical and romantic association with M.I.A., most notably as co-producer of her ubiquitous 2007 smash “Paper Planes,” Diplo, AKA Wesley Pentz, has parlayed that exposure into lasting creative and commercial success, recording as a solo artist as well as the main force behind Major Lazer and building his Mad Decent label into an international club music powerhouse. DJing here, he displayed all the keen dance-floor instincts you’d expect from a producer of his caliber, sliding seamlessly between a variety of up-tempo styles, from bouncy house to moombahton to dancehall, never letting the energy drop. Of course, he naturally made room for plenty of Mad Decent material, such as his own “Express Yourself” and the brand new Riff Raff single “Dolce & Gabbana,” but largely kept things eclectic and dynamic, peppering in strains of infallible standbys like Missy Elliot and Daft Punk here and there.

Whether it was the music or the ceremonial start to the summer festivities (Summerfestivities?), the enormous crowd, skewing heavily white and very young, were going pretty hard for a Wednesday night and just being off to the side meant being shoved past relentlessly. Combine that discomfort, and the hassle of getting there and back, with the fact that watching a DJ, even a really good DJ, from a hundred feet away isn’t all that interesting visually and there were a few moments where you had to at least consider if you would have really missed all that much by staying home and listening to a Mad Decent mix. The ladies’ booty-shaking contest aside, there wasn’t much else in the way of showmanship, but in the end it was Diplo’s skill that made turning up worth the effort and expense. Just not by all that wide a margin.


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