World-renowned artist Shepard Fairey was already into his DJ set when we got up to the third floor of Block 37 Shops. I thought it would be an awkward place to have an art exhibit/concert, but the people in charge did a great job, and the place felt like a real art gallery instead of a retail center. We walked around taking in some of the art as Fairey weaved his way through decades of music, mixing up new jack swing with early 80’s synth, 70’s punk and 60’s pop (The Monkees “Mary Mary” being the highlight for me). The crowd was dancing and grooving along, while I thought maybe the experience went on a tad too long. 75 minutes of a DJ when it was all said and done, but he left Chicago with a smile, playing Gary Glitter’s “Rock n Roll part 2.” I didn’t know what to expect when I heard that the Obey Giant and HOPE creator would be DJ-ing, but it turns out he’s pretty good and super into it himself, singing along with most of the songs with one of his Beats headphones over his right ear and the other one on top of his head.
There was a short break while Kid Koala took over the area Fairey was using. Koala set up his wax, made sure it worked, and a few minutes later we were off. The core trio of Deltron 3030 was joined by Takahiro Tazawa on guitar, Alex on drums, and the most animated bass player I’ve seen in a while (but whose name I do not know). I’m so glad hip-hop has caught on to what The Roots knew 20 years ago-music sounds better played live rather than having a guy hit a button on a laptop. Computers can be worked into a set with ease, but for me, I like to have a more organic element.
They did most of their most recent album, The Event 2, with Dan The Automator standing off to the side while Deltron Zero (Del The Funky Homosapien) did his thing. The guy is like a lightning rod on stage! They played for about 90 minutes and I don’t think he stood still for more than five seconds the whole time. One of the reasons I like him so much is that he isn’t smooth like Jay Z. He’s more than happy to interrupt his flow and then go a mile-a-minute without warning if it serves the song. And he seemed to let the feel of the band and the crowd dictate how he was performing, which was pretty cool.
A few really cool things: 1. They played the Joseph Gordon-Levitt voiceover from “Stardate” in its entirety. They could’ve chopped it up, or played loudly over it, but they didn’t. They really honored the feel of the album by not short-changing any aspect of it. 2. During “Nobody Can” Dan The Automator led the crowd in a sing-a-long of the chorus “Deltron is my hero. If he can’t do it, nobody can.” 3. It was Alex’s birthday and his only wish was for Steve Aoki to smash someone’s face with a cake. So a female fan volunteered and an Entenmann’s chocolate cake was unveiled. After a quick three-count the fan had a face full of cake courtesy of Aoki impersonator and guitarist Tazawa, and she literally ate it up. 4. After what they said was the last song, the crowd cheered so much that they came back out and did “Clint Eastwood” by their other band Gorillaz. I was hoping that Damon Albarn would pop up by surprise, but no such luck.
The audience for the show was a lot more laid back than other crowds I’ve been in recently. I’m not sure if that’s a result of everyone being out in the sun all day at Lollapalooza or just the environment of being in this loft-like area surrounded by really cool works of art, but it was nice to be able to enjoy the music without constantly being elbowed or stepped on. Deltron 3030’s music is so positive and hopeful that it felt right that the audience mirrored that attitude.
While on stage Del made an impassioned plea with everyone in the crowd to not make excuses for not doing what you want to do. To paraphrase “We live in a time where you can do whatever you want. Express yourself however you want. If you wanna study frog backs for the rest of your life, you can do it. You don’t even need to go to the library. Just take out your phone and all the information is right there. No excuses.” He also made a great point about downloading music for free, saying he does it all the time. But, if he really likes something, he’ll buy it. And he hopes that’s the case for anyone downloading Deltron 3030. “If you really dig us, at some point you’re gonna have to buy our shit.” Despite his being fairly drunk, it was one of the most common-sense truths I’ve heard anyone speak in a while.