Jack U just released a recap video of their halftime performance at an LA Clippers game back in May.

It's quite a spectacle, with the two producers trading turns hyping the crowd and running the CDJs, guest performances from vocalists, lots of twerking, a ridiculous amount of hula-hoops, and an incredibly chill dog riding around in a remote controlled car. And yet the whole thing feels a bit awkward. It may be partially because of how the video was recorded, but the crowd seems quiet and tame… and maybe a little confused. Even with the amazing charisma and energy of Skrillex and Diplo, the performance comes off odd and out of place.

Now of course the halftime show at a basketball game isn't the standard venue for a DJ/producer duo like Jack U, but considering how popular they are, you would think they'd be a hit. It's hard to imagine a performance from a popular live band, hip-hop act, or singer landing so awkwardly in the same context. I have to think this is partially due to the fact that electronic producers and DJs still aren't quite accepted as the main stars of a show in much of American culture. Of course DJs have always been a part of hip-hop shows, and in clubs everyone expects to see the DJ as the center of attention. But in situations typically reserved for more "live" types of musical performance, a DJ/producer duo still doesn't quite fit.

It does make sense that many audience members don't quite know how to react, because they are used to seeing music acts sing or play instruments - and what makes producers like Skrillex and Diplo special is the work they do in the studio, much more than what they perform live. When we see a DJ in a club or at a festival, they have an hour or more to build a set, so our impression is of the whole flow and vibe of the set, not of closely examining every minute of their performance. But an 8 minute half time show doesn't really give much opportunity to develop a set, and the simple fact is that the work they do composing and producing in the studio can't really be recreated in a live context. Well… it could. But it would probably bore most viewers to tears

(Of course there are exceptions to this, the turntablist/controllerist/Live PA virtuosos who create electronic music live on stage. But that's another discussion.)

Bringing live guest vocalists into an electronic performance certainly helps create a more engaging show for a crowd of non EDM fans, and as technology advances we are seeing more and more ways to perform electronic music live beyond just DJing. But from this video it seems like we still have a ways to go before DJs and producers are fully accepted alongside bands and singers as live performance acts.

I'm impressed that Skrillex and Diplo managed to keep it fun, in spite of the muted response from the crowd. If I had been there, I would have been cheering and dancing - and probably getting odd looks from the basketball fans all around me.

Image: YouTube Screenshot

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Chris Cox

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