Last fall, in an interview with this paper, Giraffage said, “It’s still kind of weird for me to get on stage in front of thousands of people.” On Friday at Pauley Ballroom, the crowd was much smaller, and if Giraffage was at all nervous, he didn’t show it.
His set was part of Welcome Week, a series of events hosted by ASUC SUPERB during the first week of classes. A seasoned performer, the Berkeley alumnus looked natural at his controller, doing whatever it is producers do during live shows.
The audience, on the other hand, seemed rather reserved. Perhaps that was a consequence of the venue: Pauley Ballroom seems a strange choice for an EDM concert. To act lit on the same holy floor professor John DeNero lectures is a tall order. As a result, the energy was consistently at a Goldilocks level of hype, a mild excitement befitting a school event.
The prevailing vibe was that of a middle school dance, complete with chaperones courtesy of SUPERB staff. Awkward teens stood around the dark, half-empty auditorium — it was a wonder the room didn’t stink of AXE body spray. Those at the front of the concert looked to be having a good enough time. Stragglers at the edge of the crowd politely looked on. During opener BEAUZ’s set, rainbow spotlights harkened back to when LMFAO was the music of the moment.
Of the two Berkeley alumnus producers comprising BEAUZ, only one performed on stage. That producer delivered a very vanilla set with few risks or interesting moments. The only memorable detail was a high-pitched, seemingly accidental glitch towards the middle of the set. Electronic music producers often shine when they experiment with abrasive, uncomfortable sounds that set them apart from the norm. As it stood, BEAUZ’s set lands them squarely within the norm. They could take a page from Bob Ross’ book and learn to lean into those happy accidents.
But then again, to be too critical of this brand of ear-candy EDM is pretentious. It’s fun. It’s pleasant. It’s digestible. On his SoundCloud page, Giraffage describes his own music as “poppy nonsense,” and neither he nor BEAUZ strove to do more than just that.
To his credit, Giraffage was slightly more adventurous with his set than his opener. Slappy bass was prevalent, paying homage to classic Bay Area sounds. The DJ played a mixed bag of top 50 hits from different eras. Music from when the class of incoming freshmen were actually elementary schoolers featured heavily.
Some tracks were unaltered and others cleverly remixed. “Better Off Alone,” a turn-of-the-century Eurodance anthem, stood for itself, its distinctive synth line prompting the audience to sing along. On the other hand, Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” was slowed and remixed almost beyond recognition. Giraffage showed his skill in beefing up one of Carey’s weaker cuts into an absolute banger.
After a well-received change to a slower tempo, Giraffage cut the music to announce that he would play “some stupid bangers.” Then he did just that.
The visuals behind Giraffage as he played featured the kind of tired, retro, vaporwave aesthetics that characterize his recorded music, albeit with a slightly edgier twist. Skulls burned and skeletons danced in front of pastel backgrounds. 16-bit anime girls bounced exaggerated breasts to the beat. The thematic content of the visuals could have been cooked up by an oversexed middle school student. The only standout sequence was a series of abstract chess animations, which may have been a scene-for-scene reconstruction of Bobby Fischer’s nightmares.
Giraffage didn’t present anything groundbreaking with his Welcome Week set. But then again, that’s probably not what he set out to do. His show was fun — just don’t think about it too hard.