If you walked up to my 18 year-old self and told me that in a few years I would see a 90s techno group and dance to all 17 songs from their setlist, you would have received a:
1. Confused stare
2. Slap to the face
3. “Shut the fuck up”
4. All of the above.
In the past the only bands I’d seen at the Fox Theater in Pomona were an overwhelming variety of metal bands. From Deftones to Mastodon, to a festival with every type of metal sub genre you could possibly think of. I still enjoy those bands, but now I’m 24, and instead of saying something like “It’s funny how life works out that way.” What I will say, all cheesiness aside, is that music can and will change you if you let it.
Before I start to preach, let’s talk about Underworld. Myself, like the majority of their fans, got into the group because of the film Trainspotting (great flick that’s streaming on Netflix). The soundtrack featured the songs “Born Slippy.Nux” and “Dark & Long (Dark Train)” which became legendary classics of the 90s techno scene. However, despite having a monumental influence on dance music and a exceptional discography to their name, the average age of fans at the show was well over 30. But, instead of being frustrated that my generation wasn’t at the show (probably because they’re still stuck on David Guetta, Calvin Harris and other cookie cutter DJs) I arrived at this concert excited to experience what an older generation’s dance party would be like. Let me tell you, it was pretty damn fun, like epic fun.
The first two songs “I Exhale” and “If Rah” off their new album Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future had the audience grooving back and forth and throwing their hands in the air from the get-go. Then Underworld went way way back a few years and played the stellar jam “Juanita/Kiteless.” Karl Hyde, in his classic fashion, gyrated his old and skinny hips side to side while singing in his smooth stream-of-consciousness style. There were songs played for every generation of Underworld fans as they mixed in their newest gems like “Ova Nova,” “Nylon Strung,” and “Low Burn,” with classic hits like “Jumbo,” “Two Months Off,” “King of Snake,” and “Rowla.” The crowd shared their passion in all sorts of ways: There was a giant tall guy right smack in the middle of the audience who bobbed his head continuously, there were women dancing on men, women dancing with women, men dancing with men, and mostly people getting down all on their own and gazing in awe of Underworld’s ageless performance.
Karl Hyde and Rick Smith are both in their late 50s, that’s right, they’re both pushing 60. And yet, Hyde slithered across the stage with ease and Smith harmonized on the keyboard and kept the pummeling beats flowing and the crowd moving. The last songs played were ones every Underworld fan should know: “Rez/Cowgirl” and “Born Slippy.Nux.” As expected, the sea of audience members in the Fox Theater went nuts and sang all the words.
What I took from this show besides the relentless fun and constant smiling was that Underworld and the crowd did techno the right way. Of course there were phones recording and snapping pictures every once in awhile, but I actually recall hands and fists in the air for the majority of the show (crazy right!?). There were no stage dancers, glow sticks, ridiculous costumes, flower pasties, neon colored thongs, or any other bullshit distractions to be seen at this show. Perhaps I’m just being bitter towards this new generation of electronic music, but at this show, Underworld’s MUSIC was the spectacle. Say what you will, but that’s the way it should be.
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