What is a massive dance music event like in Mumbai? Pretty much like it is everywhere else in the world I’m sure – lots and lots of really young people, dressed up in ways their parents definitely frowned at as they left the house, lots of yelling, laughing, jumping around and hugging. And this is before the show has even begun. So much yelling. What were the two of us, decidedly advanced in years for this crowd, doing standing in line on a Friday night waiting to collect our passes for Major Lazer’s Mad Decent Block Party? The same as the rest actually – just checking out an act whose music we liked and wanted to experience in a live setting.
You learn many things when you go to one of these for the first time:
- 25 is the last age that counts. Everything else is in the vast category of ‘above’.
- Cutting in line must be trendy because man all the kids are doing it. “I’ve been waiting really long” was one kid’s excuse when he cut in front of me. Eh? What did he think, the rest of us had magically appeared in front of him without any wait whatsoever?
- Technology isn’t always your friend – the most common refrain we heard while waiting to collect the passes was “The link won’t open ya!” as they frantically jabbed at their smart phones to pull up booking confirmation emails. Printouts kids, printouts. Works like a charm.
- On to the main event itself – a full-blast sound and light show from the get go. Main man Diplo came on and blasted a shower of ribbons into the crowd, the first of many for the night. There were smoke cannons, flags, dancers, streamers, paper confetti and, I think at some point, money sailing over our heads. I can’t tell what currency it was or if it was real even but the crowd went nuts.
- Diplo will not just stand on stage, shirtless, and jump around. There will be zorbing. When the audience realised that he would soon be among them in a giant transparent ball, they went nuts again.
- Some more shirtlessness later, the trio put on the Indian cricket team jersey and waved an array of flags around.
- If you’re stone cold sober, things can begin to feel like an aerobics class after some time. At first the exhortations to “JUMP!”, “PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!” and “MAKE SOME NOISE!” make sense given the setting. After the twentieth time, it feels a little like being scolded because you’re slacking during your workout and you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t JUMP! Also, the instruction to get low and bounce didn’t translate at all Major Lazer. This crowd needed more of a demo for that one.
- Some songs you will only hear snippets of – like the big Jack Ü hit Where Are Ü Now. It’s like that friend who takes control of the iPod, plays until the first chorus of a song and then quickly changes to the next one. “Why’d you stop?!” you always yell at them. Felt the same way here.
- When you make beats make them big. That’s what Major Lazer really knows how to do and it was the engine that drove the show for its kind of short 1 hour 10 minute duration.
- Hearing a big hit live is always positively electric. When the opening chords of Lean On played, albeit teasingly the first time, the energy was Next Level. To hear the whole song you had to wait until the end and interestingly, that is when the trio changed into kurta-type shirts and the vibe suddenly went from crazy dance party to peace mission (as their album title suggests). It was an interesting shift in tone.
- I finally learned the proper lyrics to Lean On. I always thought it was ‘Focus / Fire a gun’. What it is actually, as the giant on-screen graphics indicated, is ‘Blow a kiss / Fire a gun’. You can understand how I misheard because obviously, you should focus before you fire a gun.
All kidding aside, the Major Lazer live show is a supremely well-oiled machine that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until the night is done, ensuring that the crowd’s energy is always up. I once had an argument on Facebook with some people who insisted they couldn’t understand why people went to events like these when there was no ‘real musicianship’ on display. My response was that it didn’t matter whether the people on stage were playing instruments or doing something ‘real’ musically as long as the audience felt they got their money’s worth and had a good time.
The event wasn’t a life-changing musical experience for me – my vote for the best live gig Mumbai has seen in the past decade still goes to Wyclef Jean who played a no-fancy-production set at the Hard Rock Café where he played mostly new songs–a lot of them acoustic–and managed to generate crowd energy unlike anything I’d ever experienced before, or since. Even so, I had fun last night and it clearly energised the audience who had come in droves to watch an artist they like perform live. Well done Major Lazer. Now if only the kids would learn to stand in line like civilised people.