Last Wednesday night, rising house music producer 3LAU gave a rousing performance to a mostly empty room.
For his first performance in western Massachusetts, the young DJ gave a solid set consisting of his blog-hyped mashups along with an original track yet to be officially released.
Justin Blau is at a crossroads in a promising career. He is in talks with major labels to release his original production work on the strength of his newfound mashup notoriety. He has befriended some of his superstar DJ heroes. He has postponed his college education, and a potentially promising career in finance, to pursue his dream to be a progressive house producer, but he can’t even sell out the Pearl Street Ballroom on a weekday.
Luckily for Blau, though, the people who did show up were extremely excited to see him. Although the venue was only filled to about a third of its capacity, those in attendance were an extremely rambunctious bunch.
Keeping the entire set high in energy, Blau queued up club hit after club hit and threw an abundance of radio single vocals on top. If there is one adjective that does not describe a 3LAU performance, it is subtle.
Blau only goes for big hooks and he bookends them. From the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the White Stripes and Tiesto, every single song sampled in Blau’s mashups is recognizable. This recognition adds a fun element to his concerts. Watching others in the audience light up when they hear the chorus of a favorite tune is a beautiful sight. Seeing how quickly you can pick up on which track just started can be a fun game, too. A sort of musical “Where’s Waldo?”
Yet while his song choices were always fun, Blau has only been touring for a year now and it shows.
His choice to speak on the microphone in an attempt to hype up the crowd was unfortunate at best. Very few DJs can pull off talking onstage and Blau is not one of them. Unlike someone like Rusko, whose cockney grunts about ‘new chunes’ are endearing, Blau’s banter just broke into the stream of good music leaving the already excited concert goers with a little less swing in their step until he had the good grace to turn off the microphone.
Despite this, the audience was with him for pretty much the entire show, dancing their approval, some excessively so.
Another highlight of the show was getting to hear 3LAU’s original material.
“I don’t want to be known as just a mashup artist when I know how to make music,” Blau said in an interview for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian before the show. “It’s definitely a lot of work but you’ll hear it all tonight. You come to a 3LAU show to hear my own new stuff.”
At one point during the show, Blau completely stopped the music to switch from his well-known, manic megamix style to his own material, announcing over the mic that he was about to play his new song.
It would have been a good idea to book the gig downstairs in the smaller clubroom at Pearl Street instead of in the spacious ballroom. The smaller space would have sold out. 3LAU already has enough fans to fill a venue in a major city on the weekend, but he does not yet have the same clout in the Pioneer Valley – at least not on a weekday.
“I’m sure if I was here on a Friday we’d have a lot of a different audience,” Blau said.
To his credit, while pre-showing during the interview, he appeared a little down to hear about the low attendance. However, his face lit up multiple times during the show when the audience reacted positively to his performance and he was called back to the stage for an encore.
This was just one show of hopefully many in this rising artist’s career.
“I’ve only been producing for about a year and a half. I’ve been DJing for about two years. It’s new and it’s explosive, and I spend every single moment working on music,” Blau said. “I don’t watch TV. I don’t go to movies. Literally, every waking moment is listening to the new hot tracks, working on my own stuff, working on mixes, working on the business side of things with my manager. That’s what my life is about.”
Gabe Scarbrough can be reached at email@example.com.