It’s New Year Day, 2013. The last few notes of “Language” linger in Chicago’s Congress Theater as Porter Robinson exits the stage. Nineteen days from now Papa Roach will take that same stage.
I tell you this not to drive ticket sales for the aging metal band’s upcoming show, but to help paint a picture for those who haven’t visited the Congress. Its monstrous dance floor, which will soon play host to a 3500 person mosh pit, has just accommodated an equal number of ravers. This venue has no bathroom attendants, no sparklers taped to $500 bottles of liquor, just chipped paint and plenty of space to jump.
And jump they did.
Over and over, Chicago’s colorful crowd touched the sky for a fleeting second, only to land, regroup, repeat.
The one risk you run as a headliner when following electronic music titans is that they might literally tire an audience out. This concern was especially realistic for Porter during the first of his two shows when Dutch sensation Hardwell was featured before him. “Spaceman,” “Apollo,” and a coy Linkin Park bootleg; there’s only so much all of those furry calves can handle.
True to form, however, Mr. Robinson revitalized the crowd both nights with his gritty drops and melodic fills. His music and the Congress share a two layered identity. On the surface, both are infectiously abrasive, but underneath they possess stunning depth. For Porter, it’s songs like “Unison” that hit hard in the lower register while floating beautifully through the mids and highs. For the Congress, it’s a jagged concrete dance floor whose blemishes are the remains of 2500 velvet covered seats that used to fill this 1920’s movie palace. It was thus a fitting place for Porter to ring in the New Year with back to back shows.
The marquee moment from the two shows came halfway through Porter’s night one set. On the tail end of a trap to trap combo, the soft female vocals of “Easy” drifted into the mix. Though he wouldn’t officially perform until the next day, Mat Zo appeared from backstage and stepped into the DJ booth. If my calculations are correct, this is the first time the two have played together since the song was officially released. It was an honor to witness them step back and see what their progressive house anthem was capable of.
When the confetti finally settled, fans retrieved their North Face fleeces instead of Burberry coats, and bartenders capped Skyy Vodka instead of Grey Goose. I think Porter would agree with me though that the venue, the crowd, and the atmosphere were absolutely perfect. Besides, the lyrics to Chuckie’s hit, played both nights in some form, aren’t “it’s all about the bottle service.” It’s all about the jumping.
Words by William Thwaites