Pier 94 is nestled on the western edge of Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River, tucked away in walking distance from the city’s dance haven of Pacha as RPM’s prime location for non-summer spectacles. What used to be a one (maybe two) night extravaganza has become almost a mini-festival — in capacity size, production value, and star power – with major acts filing through the pier one after another.
A personal fan of Alex Ridha (Boys Noize), I tried to duck the freezing cold as best I could to see the show. I had not been to a Pier 94 event in almost two years — a lifetime in recent dance music history — and decided to stop by for some German techno and Major Lazer debauchery.
The setup of these events are now blockbuster in size. Filling the general admissions area from wall to wall, thousands of half-naked adolescents and young adults excitedly awaited the impending “twerkfest” as Boys Noize mashed through his set. While unlike his intimate set I saw a couple of months ago, his trademark hard synths pounded through the speakers, stirring the crowd during his opening slot.
The audience didn’t seem too well-versed with the legend or his musical style, but the occasional cheer could be heard the more familiar hits. From his Dog Blood work on “Chella Ride” to more mainstream fare like Disclosure’s “Latch,” Ridha spun an upbeat set as suited to the crowd as he could while trying to remain faithful to his style. It’s tough to compromise, and usually the results could be more spectacular, but nonetheless, it was a fun set while it lasted.
When Boys Noize gave way to the animated Major Lazer, a noticeable buzz from the crowd echoed under the tent. Ever since his days with Switch, Diplo and his new partner in crimes Jillionaire and Walshy Fire have molded their trio into an iconic presence. Their act has transcended the music, for better or worse.
Major Lazer has evolved into a massive half show, half party. Girls twerk on stage while “Express Yourself” blasts through the speakers. Jillionaire ignites the ladies into a riotous mess during “Bubble Butt” (what else?), and marijuana leaves plaster all the screens during their track “Get Free.” New age comedies now pack as many side-splittingly hilarious celebrity cameos — though Lindsay Lohan (!!!) was brought on stage by Major Lazer — as coherent plot points, and these rocking and rolling dance extravaganzas have a similar unapologetic focus on thrills. The night is more about maximization of fun with music playing than fun because of music playing.
This leads to minor hitches in the aural experience. Both Alex and the duo played “Wild for the Night” and remixes of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s now ubiquitous “Heads Will Roll,” but fans were too busy jumping, partying, and watching Diplo roll over them in a transparent rubber ball to notice. Oh well.
In the end, RPM’s investment in the artists’ massive scale of production is unlike any other, beat by only those annual massive festivals with far bigger budgets. While New York now offers a plethora of dance music events, nothing is quite like Diplo and friends’ boisterous act at the pier-side venue built for to host such a show.
Come ready to scream, stomp, and twerk. The pier is waiting.