If you can encapsulate an electronic sub-genre as “chillwave, bedroom dream-pop,” then Flamingosis’ Upper Sproul Plaza performance Friday was the elevator music version of that.
There are only a handful of professional reviews of the New Jersey-based producer’s work floating around, but one user review sums it up well: “Best dentist-office-core album of the year.”
That said, for the 80 or so people gathered around the minimal setup — no stage, just a table for Flamingosis’ laptop and pads under a fold-out canopy, surrounded by some speakers — the show was just what one needed after an afternoon spent on the glade surrounded by a haze of smoke. Several people within the crowd were just sitting and reclining in inflatable couches.
Generally, the Sproul Plaza walkway provides a perfect opportunity to build up an audience over the course of a musical set, as casual passersby stop to listen for a bit and become engaged. Yet despite the plaza serving as a major conduit for those leaving Memorial Glade after 4/20 festivities, and despite the 4/20-friendly vibe Flamingosis attempted to lay down, the size of the crowd surrounding him remained the same small size for the majority of his set.
He cashed in on his name about 10 minutes into the set, yelling “Wave your arms like a flamingo!” into his mic. The skeleton crew of highly engaged dancers — several of whom were the ASUC SUPERB Productions event staff, presumably trying to hype up the crowd — were happy to comply. His groovy beats served as a convenient, mellow backdrop to the afternoon, but it would’ve been more appropriate to have him parked in the corner of Memorial Glade as people sat and chilled out. The standing crowd, behind the line of dancers, found it hard to stay engaged.
Upper Sproul Plaza has, of course, held its fair share of exciting shows — Palma Violets’ riotous performance back in 2013 comes to mind. (Who knew you could try to crowd surf on Upper Sproul?) That definitely wasn’t the mood needed nor desired on this pre-Cal Day concert, but regardless, the daytime nature of the show hampered the energy of the performance. Concerts always look kind of dumb in the sunlight.
But strictly from a sonical standpoint, Flamingosis’ tracks blended into each other like wet paint, lacking riffs and melodies to latch onto and offering little to differentiate them. Ultimately, they had the stylistic trappings of the songs that a DJ at a club would play — where people come to dance to beats, not evaluate the performer — but those DJs also generate audience goodwill by generously sampling popular music, piggybacking on the recognizability of those tracks to flex their remixing chops. Even artists with melody-driven electronica — Giraffage for example — throw in a healthy mix of popular sampling during their live performances.
Flamingosis could’ve used a bit of that — and more personality in his songwriting and performance style. But for all these gripes, did the post-glade dancers care one bit, or did they dance the afternoon away in the soft golden light?
You can guess.