The veteran of the secret Zombie War of 1984 hopped on his rocket powered skateboard and descended upon the unsuspecting inhabitants of New York City and made the spacious Terminal 5 his headquarters before the Frankenstorm’s arrival. Saturday 27th October, the crowd buzzed with anxious 20 somethings who (this being the weekend before Halloween) seized the opportunity to come donned in their gory, ridiculous neon best.
Chicago native Brenmar got the party started, blending Trap, Moombathon, and EDM hits with a few of his own creations to keep the crowd thoroughly entertained. He even managed to squeeze in some late 90s Rap favorites. During the brief pause after Brenmar’s set I took the opportunity to relocate to the second floor to gain a better vantage point, and I’m glad I did, because the set that followed next could only be described as bizarre mix of dark 80’s cocaine-drenched melodies otherwise known as Picture Plane.
The anticipation was building, the crowd cheered and chanted for Major Lazer after every song that played during the intermission, I looked at my watch, which simply refused to hit the 11:15 pm start time, but then at last the place went dark. The crowd, which had been so patient instantaneously knew that the moment for which they had spent their hard-earned $35 was upon them.
Dressed in Major Lazer retro themed Nike basketball gear (sweatbands, mid-thigh shorts and tube socks), the starting five of Diplo, Jillionaire, Walshy Fire and of course their two extremely fit female dancers rushed the stage and proceeded to deconstruct every thought I ever had about how a live performance should go. I shouldn’t even call it a “performance” per se – it was more so an experience. Diplo and Jillionaire manned their turntable command centre while Walshy Fire belted instructions to the patrons who more than happily obliged as they kicked things off with the Laidback Luke and Mrs. Dynamite assisted “Sweat Thru.” I laughed at the irony of the choice of song as beads of sweat began to trickle down from my brow. The once heavily air conditioned Terminal 5 had been reduced to an old-fashioned sweat box in a matter of minutes. Sensing the crowd needed a breather Walshy took the time to shout out Reggae legend Johnny Osbourne, who was in attendance and segued into talking about Lazer’s latest single “Jah No Partial,” which samples Osbourne’s reggae classic “Mr. Marshall.” With a simple nod from Johnny, Walshy signals for the drop and the sample plays backed by a chorus sung by the capacity crowd, and like a wave crashing onto shore, the crowd erupts when the first hit of Flux Pavilion’s production lands, sending shockwaves through each floor. The bass is humming, balloons and confetti are falling from the ceiling, lights are flashing in every direction and all my 5 senses are being impacted at once (in case you don’t know, sweat is salty). And then Walshy stops and proceeds to tell the crowd that “This was only first quarter.” What?! You mean there’s three more quarters of this? “What next?” I thought and I have to assume everyone else in attendance shared my concern as well.
Since we had three more quarters left the major decided to take the second one a little light, and by light I mean toss vuvuzuelas into the crowd along with fake “Lazer Money,” which they said would be worth a lot in the future (I managed to grab a couple handfuls just in case) and bombard us with classic dancehall hits while the two lovely young ladies onstage showcased their athleticism and flexibility. Remember they were keeping things light – well they were up until “Bubble Butt” started to play, at which point young ladies were invited on stage to show off their anatomical masterpieces while being rained on by more Lazer cash. This was still the second quarter, mind you, and competitive as they are, the ML massive wanted to go into half time strong. Cue Diplo’s “Express Yourself,” the song which has become almost synonymous with Major Lazer shows. It’s not so much the song itself but the song’s signature dance which involves girls doing handstands and gyrating to the heavy New Orleans inspired bounce beat. While the girls were showing off their respective balancing skills Diplo seized the opportunity to jump in an inflatable bubble and roll around over outstretched hands of the crowd – you know, because crowd-surfing is too mainstream.
I’m so hot now my forehead is leaking, so I ditched my hoodie and checked my Fuel Band and realized I had hit my daily goal (probably did that since the first quarter). At this point I muttered to myself “third quarter, now what?” As if Walshy had read my mind, he introd the record that put Major Lazer on the map, “Pon the floor.” The signature drum pattern blared through the speakers sending the crowd in a frenzy as Rasta-colored balloons cascaded down from the ceiling. Each word of Vybz Kartel’s minimalist verse seemingly aided in raising the temperature to sauna levels.
The secret of Major Lazer shows is crowd interaction, unlike most shows where they just ask you to repeat a few words. With Major Lazer, they make you do work which they clearly demonstrated when they had the whole ground floor “palancing” (jumping on one foot while moving… usually in a left to right fashion). Nevermind that the majority of these people probably never heard of palancing before, much less the song, but that’s the beauty of Major Lazer: their ability to unite all cultures through music. As if to further solidify this point, Diplo dropped a blend of RDX’s “Jump” over Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And yes, of course, a mosh pit ensued, Kurt Cobain would’ve been proud.
We’re in the final quarter now, and how do we keep up the energy from the last? Easy, more crowd participation, only this time grab one lucky guy from the crowd, strip him down to his underwear, tell him lay on his back and watch him get tag teamed by the two Lazer dancers. In some countries this might be considered sexual assault, but I highly doubt he’ll be pressing any charges judging by the size of the grin on this particular “victim’s” face after being thoroughly manhandled. After that bit of on-stage debauchery the men in charge picked up where they left off and cycled through a full clip of Lazer hits new and old. Then, like the end of a roller coaster ride, the excitement was suddenly over, leaving you with feelings of satisfaction mixed with longing for more.
I exit Terminal 5 a little after 1 am, the slight chill in the New York air hits me in my face and reminds me that maybe it’s a good idea to put my hoodie back on for fear of catching pneumonia, even though pneumonia might be a fair trade for an amazing night. So what have I learned from attending this Major Lazer show? Firstly no on else is doing exactly what they are doing anywhere else. Secondly you are guaranteed a musical experience that will touch all corners of the globe as well as some cardio – and we can always gain to burn a few calories. Lastly the intergalactic army grows stronger every day, so hang on to those Lazer Dollars.
Free the universe.
All photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross