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The Re:SET Concert Series Emphasizes Moderation & Coherence

This article was originally published on Respect My Region

A weekend packed with live music seems ideal from a distance. Though such events are gratifying in most cases, attendees often end up paying a hefty tax by dint of exhaustion and agitation. The average music festival ends up forcing people to spend extended periods of time in the afternoon heat and negotiate conflicting show times amid the tightness of heavy foot traffic.

The Re:SET concert series, contrariwise, offers a new and improved recipe that alleviates these concerns by allowing each headliner to curate their own lineups and arrange the early evening slots leading up to their performance. With each of the three supporting shows lasting approximately an hour followed by a final act that spans ninety minutes, folks leave well-fed and nourished from the six-hour gathering.

This past weekend, Re:SET traveled to California with three daily lineups rotating between Los Angeles, San Diego and Stanford. Of these locations, LA arguably had it the best considering each day got progressively better, concluding with a performance so electrifying that it made the headliners from the previous two days seem like warm-up acts. This, to be clear, isn’t to take away from the consummate brilliance of Steve Lacy and boygenius but to stress the all-encompassing rapture an LCD Soundsystem climax exudes.

Steve Lacy & Co. Inaugurate Re:SET Los Angeles

Friday at Pasadena's Rose Bowl featured Steve Lacy backed by Fousheé, Toro y Moi and James Blake. Despite his limited stage presence, Chaz Bear aka Toro y Moi put on the most captivating show of the day for one simple reason: he composes music that leaves a lasting impression. From that alone, most of the work was done before he even took the stage.

Chaz Bear aka Toro y Moi playing an early-evening set | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

Steve Lacy, for all his strengths (and there are many), does not write the most memorable songs. He has everything—virtuosity, style and succinct fluency in studio operations—except the ability to hold his outer circle’s attention. It doesn’t take long for his act to lose its vitality to someone who isn’t a die-hard fan, though a large chunk of the audience consisted of people who swear by him. At the end of the day, catering to those who believe in you the most is what truly matters.

As for James Blake, he played his role perfectly. Sometimes, artists stand out from a festival lineup in a way that makes you think, “Why are they even here?” Though this can be said about most of the hip-hop songs Blake has been featured on, there couldn’t have been a better artist to help the crowd transition from Toro y Moi to Lacy. And this is precisely what makes the concept behind Re:SET so effective — the whole roster begins to make sense once you learn that it was put together by the headliner.

Steve Lacy closing out the first night of Re:SET | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

The Rose Bowl Turned Into a boygenius Temple on Day 2

From the moment the gates opened on June 3, it was all about boygenius. The entire card was solid—barely anyone would dispute this—but the day was simply dedicated to the sad Doc Martens girls.

Though the crowd would be livelier the following day, it never got as loud as Saturday evening. Yes, Bartees Strange and Dijon put on incredible performances, but the show only really started when Clairo came on. The 24-year-old hipster posterchild sparked a gigantic wave of participation that kept spreading further and further away from the stage, so by the time boygenius appeared, the audience had turned into an enormous choir.

Clairo playing during the sunset | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

When Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus walked out, the entire venue was already theirs. Of course, they had been the primary focus since the beginning of the day because no other act on the bill has a stronghold on their fans like boygenius, and this was apparent from how many people had on their merchandise or came dressed wearing collared shirts and ties. It came as no surprise, then, that the crowd erupted into singalongs whenever the opportunity presented itself. Their show was as interactive as it got this past weekend, and for that reason, boygenius had the best Re:SET performance … until Sunday evening.

Phoebe Bridgers performing with boygenius | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

Re:SET Los Angeles Culminated with a Sonic Explosion

Imagine blowing the roof off an open-air venue — that’s what Idles accomplished on the final day of Re:SET. When they played at the same venue last year for This Ain’t No Picnic, things were no different. The British five-piece has always carried with them a near-lethal dose of adrenaline wherever they go, packing it into an hour-long set and gassing their entire audience every time they perform. It’s practically impossible not to get involved in the madness if you’re watching them play. And what makes it all the more great is that love and compassion are central to their work, so it feels great to declare that the spirit of punk has never been in a better place!

After a slightly out-of-place set by Jamie xx that surely did its part by giving the club kids something to dance to, LCD Soundsystem took over for the final show of the weekend.

Lee Kiernan of Idles crowd-surfing | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

The stage layout looked like the inside of a spaceship, but the ones from Star Trek. The whole set was just the most beautiful, confusing and orderly mess — they go from fuzzy synth-pop to garage rock with four band members playing percussion to making sounds that are impossible to attribute, yet it always felt right.

It’s almost as though their sole purpose is to make music that’s impossible to categorize, which is precisely why it’s such a thrill to watch! The whole time, as your body moves involuntarily, you’ll just be thinking, “What even is this?” LCD Soundsystem’s set was flawless and is something everyone should experience in order to live a complete life, because “Losing My Edge” simply doesn’t live up to its full potential on tape. The records are great, but they simply don’t compare to witnessing them in the flesh.

James Murphy performing with LCD Soundsystem | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

The event came to a close by 10 pm that night with no regrets except 20$ Modelos. Not every set works for everyone, especially if you go for all three days, but those in charge of Re:SET seem to have found the perfect balance. A set number of shows accessible to all within a time bracket that are themed around one act brings in a purposeful crowd. For that reason, it wasn’t too crowded or messy and there was plenty of space for everyone to move with a full range of motion.

It worked in California and it’ll work wherever Re:SET goes next, but you’ll have to see that for yourself.


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