Dotted in neon orange paint that matched the huge orange “X” decals adorning his drum kit, his laptops, and even his t-shirt, Robert DeLong took his place on the humble “indie” stage yesterday afternoon at Juice Jam. DeLong’s performance, sandwiched between an incredibly bass-heavy performance by Nicky Romero and the highly anticipated headliner Kendrick Lamar, carried its own hype. Syracuse University students came in droves, crowding up to the barrier for a glimpse at the man behind the Wii-mote. His fan base, also covered in neon-colored tribal face paint, call themselves his Tribe of Orphans, and had pressed themselves up against the barrier of DeLong’s stage long before Romero’s set was close to being finished.
What DeLong lacked in stage space at the smaller “indie” stage, he made up for in simultaneous musical talent. Aside from playing his variety of nontraditional instruments—including an electronic music-producing Logitech joystick during his opening song “Happy”—DeLong also jumped on the drums and mixed his own beats.
With his longish, stringy hair, DeLong looks a bit like an alternative version of the Arcade Fire’s Win Butler. But his earnest vocals are a bit reminiscent of Ben Gibbard’s, a la The Postal Service’s Give Up. Unlike either of these groups, however, DeLong specializes in bringing bass drops to amp up his audience of indie kids and ravers alike.
The highlight of DeLong’s set came as the crowd began winding down. He mixed in the vocals from the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” and suddenly the teeming group of hundreds of college kids was grooving en masse once again.
His single “Global Concepts,” which DeLong played early on in his set, was a crowd favorite, accented by a high-energy DeLong running back and forth from his drum kit, to his joystick, to his computers to make the beats for his percussion-heavy hit. He’s a one-man electro-pop band who treats his sets like video games. In the chorus of “Global Concepts,” DeLong poses a question to his audience: “Did I leave my life to chance, or did I make you fucking dance?” I think Syracuse University answered that one pretty clearly.
Photo by 20 Watts staff