I first learned of Robert DeLong back in spring 2014 as I was learning about all the artists on the Bonnaroo lineup for that summer. On a genre breakdown of all the acts he was listed as EDM. Curious, I checked him out. Yes his music is electronic so the E part was right, and yes it was pretty dancey so I guess the D part was also right and M just stands for music, which is a pretty nebulous term to begin with. But for some reason his music really doesn’t fit the spectrum of the EDM scene even if it shares the same staples. As for his performance at Bonnaroo? It was one of the best of the weekend, which is saying a lot since I also saw Elton John, Jack White, Kanye West, Vampire Weekend and two dozen other acts.
Part of the appeal of DeLong is that his sound is so unique and his performance is even more unique. His set up is complicated, consisting of a stand up drum kit that features only two pieces of drumming equipment but with several cymbals and blocks that don’t go along with most normal set ups for drummers. In the middle of the stage is his electronic board, which has a small keyboard/synth, a large drum machine pad and a bunch of computer joysticks (I’ll explain later) all angled about 45 degrees towards the audience causing DeLong to lean over the stand to play anything on it. Lastly he has a regular old drum kit that everyone has seen a million times before. Behind all of these intense setups was a small video screen that flickered on and started showing cheesy infomercial clips and other 80’s/90’s nostalgia shots that look like it was edited together with MS Paint and totally rad clip art and slogans super imposed over top. Delong eventually came out to a Frankenstein’d version of Kissed from a Rose firmly cementing the acid nostalgia trip.
Even though the Mod Club is fairly small, with great sight lines anywhere in the venue DeLong wasn’t content on people just watching him behind his set ups. Affixed to everything that had the space for it was an avalanche of GoPro cameras (or some other similar off brand portable camera) angled directly at DeLong for maximum epic drum faces. This stop was the first of Delong’s newest tour promoting his just released second full length album In the Cards. The set began with one of his more psychedelic dance songs Religious Views as a tool to warm the crowd up as he thanked the crowd for coming out and letting everyone know he wanted them to join him in dancing the whole night. Along with a multitude of drums and a plethora of cameras he also had an arsenal of microphones set up to various settings so he didn’t have to worry about mixing his vocals. Some microphones were set to reverb while others were to repeat his vocals. He had so many recording devices on stage he would have made Gene Hackman in The Conversation green with envy.
As a tool to get the crowd into the show DeLong’s girlfriend Heidi Callaway and a friend were present to paint on the faces of eager concertgoers. This is now a staple as DeLong himself plays with neon paint on his face, usually his trademark X, but tonight more of a tribal look. It seemed like at least half the crowd had unique lines and dots painted on their face that glowed when the bright stage lights bounced off the happy faces dancing to the beat.
Playing many new songs like Possessed, shows DeLong’s growth as an artist with its tropical house like flair causing people to throw their hands up to the mercy of the beat and dance along. He switched up his style a bit by busting out an electric guitar and having a microphone stand set up front and center of the stage for Isabelle Street from 2014’s Long Way Down EP, looking like the rock star everyone fantasizes about being, only with a GoPro clamped to the bottom (because of course there’s one there). Instead of just using vocal samples for the MNDR assisted Born To Break, DeLong went the extra mile and had Brave Shores Stefanie McCarrol come out join him on stage. The two traded lines and gave an emotionally heavy performance. DeLong made sure to tell us several times that McCarrol was from Toronto, hoping to win extra brownie points with the crowd. At one point he let everyone know that he was “from Seattle, which makes me like 60% Canadian”.
The set ended with DeLong demanding to “let’s fucking dance together” as he busted out the crowd favourite Global Concepts, a song with Caribbean steel drum flairs and great lyrics like “I’ll see the people that I used/See the substance I abused/The ugly places that I lived/Did I make money, was I proud?/Did I play my songs too loud? Did I leave my life to chance/Or did I make you fucking dance?”.
For the encore he came back on stage to a remix of Phil Collin’s In The Air Tonight before changing pace and going to the standout new track Acid Rain getting everyone jumping in the air. For a late Wednesday night, the crowd was strong and ready to party. DeLong may be one of the only Indie EDM acts, which clearly makes him a titan in the genre I may have just made up. He may be better known in the Indie 88/The Edge universe as opposed to the ravers that attend Digital Dreams but the cult of DeLong is growing. He is one that needs to be seen to truly appreciate his one of a kind stage show and infectious energy. Expect to see him climbing up the festival ladder circuit next summer with Toronto being the new IT city for these big budget carnivals of all flavours.