The air was heavy with Virginia humidity and cigarette smoke. Some in jeans and a T-shirt and others in bathing suits, music fans bustled around, trying to find a spot in the developing crowd. While there were seats available, most chose to stand, signaling the high energy to come. College and high school students filled the outdoor Sprint Pavilion in anticipation of the EDM (electronic dance music) artist Flume. Following the opening acts, fog took up the space above our heads, and yellow lights shone up and out. Music started low and continued to build in opposition to the chatter from the crowd. The suspense expertly led into the explosive and exciting concert led by one man that spoke no more than, “How’re you doin’, Charlottesville?”
The artist takes on the stage name Flume, but Australian Harley Edward Streten is the man behind it all. The stage name comes from a song by Bon Iver. Streten liked the way the word “flume” looked in writing and wanted to pick something from one of his musical inspirations. Straying away from his saxophone skills at age 11, he found his place in electronic music when he received a music production disc in a box of cereal and was intrigued by the different layers of music. In an interview with Delia Reyes from the Creators Project, a music and arts blog, Streten stated, “… I thought it was really cool—the whole concept of how there was the drums on one track, the synth on another, and the bass on another. And if you joined them all together, it would make a full song. I’d never thought of music being laid like that.” Flume released his first eponymous album in 2012 but gained significant recognition with his next release, Skin, in 2016.
The majority of the songs at the Charlottesville concert came from this new album. The songs vary in composition; some contain lyrics or repetition of words, while others are all instrumental. All of the songs contain various mashups of machine-made sounds that sound like distorted drum beats. Many of Flume’s tracks have a suspenseful build into an explosive beat drop. His song titled “Take a Chance (feat. Little Dragon)” is calmer than the typical Flume track, with Little Dragon’s relaxed voice leading the listener easily through the harsh beats. Even though Skin is only his second full release, the 24 year-old snagged impressive featured artists such as AlunaGeorge, Beck, Tove Lo, and Vince Staples. The album hit the top of Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Album chart. The young artist’s fame exploded with the release of this album, as signaled by the 200 million listens of his song “Never Be Like You” (Warning: explicit language) on Spotify.
With his success in mind, my expectations of the concert were high, and I was not disappointed. The show was a light spectacle as much as a display of the artist’s captivating music. Cubes seemed to float in the air above Streten’s table, covered with equipment and his trusted Macbook. The cubes, some complete and some unfolded, were simple outlines of lights, flashing or fading with different colors depending on the track. With one song, they flashed a stark white, which highlighted the thick air swirling above the crowd. Each song also featured a projection that morphed or changed throughout the beats. One particular song, “Wall ****” began with an image of a demon-like creature. As the song progressed, the creature melted into a ball of mush at the bottom of the wide screen. Halfway through the song, the beast returned to its original picture. The images were beautifully detailed and provided a perfectly synced visual for the complex electronic music. While the focus remained around his current album, he also played some of his hit tracks from his first album, which always seems to be a crowd favorite at any concert. Artists know to play the classics while also exposing the group to their fresh beats.
Despite the stunning performance put on by Flume and his crew, there were unenjoyable factors of the concert as well. The weather was less than ideal for a crammed, outdoor concert; humidity mixed with sweaty people makes for a particularly uncomfortable and soggy experience. A larger venue would have been better for the many fans of techno, but the tightly-packed group may have added to the whole experience; everyone was bonding in the listening of Flume’s tracks.
The sweatiness certainly didn’t ruin the concert, though. The show was not simply a person playing his music, and many electronic concerts take on this disconnect. Streten’s ability to become Flume on stage is what made the concert so captivating. As an audience member, I could tell how much the artist enjoyed his own music, which, in turn, permeates to the show’s atmosphere and drives the crowd’s energy. The liveliness from both Flume and the audience never seemed to waver. Fellow students also appreciated the concert as I did. Chase Smullen (‘17) perfectly summed up the ambience when he said, “The tunes were bumping, and the vibes were electric.” Ryan McGloin (‘16) agreed with Smullen, stating, “The lights, atmosphere, and music all work together to make an awesome experience.” If you have the chance to go to a Flume concert, I would highly recommend attending for the environment alone; the high-spirited and connected crowd is enough to draw in anybody and keep them there throughout the length of the performance.