MSTRKRFT, a electro-house duo coming out of Ontario, has been a force on the electronic dance scene since 2006 when they released The Looks. I have seen MSTRKRFT twice before, first at Ultra Music Festival and then at Lollapalooza, so I have seen what they are capable of. These guys are experts at throwing a dance party. Unfortunately for everyone in attendance on Sunday, MSTRKRFT did not bring their “A” game. Matter of fact, they didn’t even bring their “B” or “C” game.
When I first heard that an electronic music festival was coming to our small and under-appreciated town of Pittsburgh, I rejoiced. But I was also a little skeptical. Can Pittsburgh bring out crowds to support major acts like this? Can Pittsburgh, as a city, provide a venue that will accept, if not support, the dance music scene and its pill-popping fans instead of laying down rule after rule upon its festival-goers? These questions were answered on Sunday night at Stage AE during Pittsburgh Electronic Music Festival.
We arrived in the parking lot before the concert began, and already there were throngs of people tailgating, dancing, and having a good time. The z-lounge brought out turntables and their own DJs were spinning house music. People were in a frenzy and the atmosphere was electric.
We entered the festival midway through Mux Mool’s set. The best word to use to describe the scene would be “awkward.” The sun was blaring down on the crowd, the dance floor was barely alive and there were security guards staring at everyone sitting in the grass. Designer Drugs came on afterwards and did an admirable job of bringing people to the dance floor with their set. Although their transitions were sometimes sloppy, they seemed to be having fun onstage and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
The 5 o’clock start time seemed like a bad idea on such a hot day. Dance music, in its essence, is for the night. As dubstep-demon Excision came on around 8 o’clock, the sun was starting to fade, the stage lights became more vivid, and the crowd started to grow. Excision livened the crowd and gave me hope about Pittsburgh and electronic music. Everyone was loving it and the stage seemed primed for the headliner, MSTRKRFT, to completely bring down the house with their electro madness.
To put it simply, MSTRKRFT did not care about their set last night. It was apparent from the first track that they were packing it in and just getting through. Some of the songs they played were not even full songs, just unfinished ideas that they seemed to be using as filler to kill time. Other than one chorus of Heartbreaker with John Legend, they played no tracks with vocals. They played none of their popular songs and no songs off of their two full length albums. At one point during the set, Jesse of MSTRKRFT, seemingly to show his displeasure, raised his arm to check his watch to see how much time was left. At the end of their set, they just let their music run on a loop and left the stage. A roadie from the festival had to come onstage and turn it off for them.
This diva-like act by MSTRKRFT was completely unfair to the people who paid money to see them and Pittsburgh in general. There may not have been a Bonnarroo-sized crowd in attendance, but to at show no respect to their fans is an abhorrent and selfish act.
This is my opinion, but I suspect that there was an issue with money. The organizers of the festival may not have broken even and may not have been able to pay MSTRKRFT their full due. Regardless, if money is the only reason that MSTRKRFT is making music then they do not deserve to be booked at other festivals and shows.
For Pittsburgh, there remains to be seen if it can support a major electronic music festival. Perhaps the organizers of this event were unrealistic in booking an act this big and expecting to break even. Many festivals follow the model of gaining momentum and capital on a yearly basis before signing major acts such as MSTRKRFT. Perhaps if they started smaller with less expensive acts and a more underground venue it could be a success.
If you were there and have anything to say about this event, leave me a comment. Thanks for reading.