Rave concerts have always been an interesting scene. In some ways, people are there to dance all night to the loudest, most abrasive beats they can stand. On the other hand, the crowd is also there to see a group like Crystal Castles perform, giving them a chance to jump around rather than solely show off their moves. As part of their HARD Summer Tour, the electronic duo gave everything their fans wanted and more. That is, except for a good set length.
HARD Summer is a series of shows all headlined by everyone’s favorite techno duo. At each stop, the show comes packaged with a variety of opening DJs that keeps the crowd screaming and dancing throughout the night. The progression of acts worked really well at Terminal 5, slowly building the crowd into a frenzy as each artist brought something different to the mix.
After a mildly disappointing set by JDH and Dave P, the crowd’s quasi-apathetic mood quickly went out the window once Destructo arrived. It was almost like someone threw a switch. Suddenly, the front of the DJ booth and the wall behind it lit up in visual overload. Screens displayed everything from random genres, stuttering across the LEDs to a backdrop of multicolored cassettes to random Japanese anime drawings. Then there was the music. Destructo stands as one of the most aptly titled artists around, because when his set goes off, it feels like the world is ending. Off-kilter beeps sounded like the Close Encounters of the Third Kind aliens, if only they were hostile. Soon afterward, the floor shook with what can only be described as a musical rendition of a T-Rex roar.
After more than an hour of Destructo’s extremes, Sinden brought things back down to Earth. If the former came off futuristic and apocalyptic, the latter felt grounded in the here and now. On the whole, Sinden’s music dove deeper into worldly influences, moving between rock and world music, engaging the crowd and encouraging them to dance harder and shout louder. A few times, he would stand on top of the deck, getting the audience to clap along with him while the programmed beats went off below. To Sinden and Destructo’s credit, the two masterminds unleashed just the right amount of energy to keep feet in the air but legs in perfect shape for Crystal Castles.
Finally, after three straight hours of dance music, Crystal Castles hit the stage at almost one in the morning. The stage was rearranged to a drum set, a series of lights against metal structures, and a synth for Ethan Kath to create his sea of noise. Set against a ghostly backdrop of the kid on the cover of Crystal Castles II, the duo kicked things off with an intense version of “Fainting Spells”. The flashing strobe lights and Alice Glass’ banshee-like wails bounced through every inch of the venue, making the audience and the band appear as only split-second flashes. From there, the show really got started.
With “Baptism”, things took a turn for a more melodic angle once the heavy synth riff came out of the speakers. That rhythm alone painted a lovely scene of magnificent screams and oddball body movements. But this wasn’t enough for Glass, though. She looked like she wanted to break through the audience/band barrier so she did, literally. About halfway through the number (and on nearly every other song afterwards), Glass jumped down on to the security barriers stopping for a brief second to look at the packed venue before diving into the front row. Despite the security team’s best efforts, she made her way through the first several rows of ravers before returning to the stage. She really threw everything she had into the performance, making up for the hour-long wait between Sinden and the main event. Come to think of it, she may be one of the very few singers who spent almost equal time in the crowd as she did onstage.
After blasting through several other songs, including singles “Crimewave”, “Celestica”, and “Courtship Dating”, the band left the stage after less than an hour of playing time. Now, most groups with only two albums under their belt could at least pull off an hour-long set. So that would be disappointing under even normal circumstances. However, playing less than an hour after giving all three opening acts almost an hour and 30 minutes of set time? That feels like a rip-off. While the opening acts weren’t bad at all, and were pretty impressive in some cases, the audience’s reaction made it clear that they were at the show to see Crystal Castles. Such a short show left a lot of people confused, with questions of “Is that it?” moving throughout the venue. Such a short performance really killed the joyous mood that had existed all night.
The HARD Summer show was ultimately a night of fun music and dancing that ending badly due to Crystal Castles’ short playtime. Maybe next time around they can cut one of the DJ openers so the fans can see what they came for: the headlining duo.