Remember when everyone was comparing DJs to rockstars? Sometimes the comparison was warranted, but most of the time it was not. Paul Oakenfold is no Mick Jagger and Tiesto is no Bono, right? Rockstar eminence is about swagger and attitude, and even the best mind-blowing decksters don't always have "it." (Hip-hop DJs, especially those with scratch skillz, tend to be more arousing performance-wise). It's pretty safe to say, however, that Diplo -who meshed hip-hop, dub-step and electro during his 2 hour set at Departure at Vanguard on Friday- is, at this point, a rockstar.
Hard to say when this happened exactly. The career-making collab -and relationship- with M.I.A.? The infectious Major Lazer anthems ("Pon De Floor" arguably brought back the nasty to dance floors). Those snazzy Blackberry commericials? His cocky humor (as seen on Twitter and Facebook) and yes, good looks, surely haven't hurt. Either way, Diplo (real name Thomas Wesley Pentz) has earned not only groupies but his choice of superstar producer gigs (the latest being Sia and Beyonce) and headlining DJ sets that leave fans swooning and sweating.
His stints behind the decks have always been impressive, but after last Friday, it was undeniably clear that nobody's got Lo's mojo -and we mean that as it pertains to mixing and selecting skill, as well as charismatic appeal. From our vantage point on stage behind the DJ (and amidst his raging-off-the-liquor-rider party posse), it was very rock concert-like. Everytime Diplo played a familiar tune, the starry-eyed ladies up front would bounce, wave their arms up at him and sing along, while the dudes behind them tended to pounce in forward motion, then pump and pogo about, even though it was so packed, there was little room to do so.
Though the set was mainly about the DJ/producer's patented bass-heavy beats, reverberating rhythm patterns and exotic instrumental Baile funk references, these were heightened by the bold cadence of several remixed rap tracks from Kanye West, Jay-Z and Wacka Flocka Flame. He busted out M.I.A. towards the end and bits of horny Lazer hits too. His set ended with Destiny's Child's "Say My Name." Everyone left doing just that.
Diplo's props included tiny air horns (after M.I.A. milked those dry, would have thunk he'd be over 'em!) and inflatable flamingos and monkeys bouncing above the packed crowd non-stop. Departure makes great use of the Vanguard space with a huge LCD screen on stage, two smaller screens in the crowd and fog machines that periodically shoot out smoke on each side of the stage. Speaking of smoke, the outdoor tented patio also had DJs from Diplo's Mad Decent label, but it was too stogie-stinky for non-nicotine patrons like us.
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The usual girls in skin-tight Lycra dresses and high-heels accompanied by dudes in baggy pants and baseball caps (guys are so lucky), abounded but Diplo brought a divergence in the weekend warrior crowd. We spotted some neon mohawks, foxy fashionistas and some real rockstars: Andrew WK and wifey Cherie Lily (both of whom had LA gigs last week, Lily at Mr. Black and WK at Dem Passwords gallery). WK told us he'll be back in LA for a more party-hard gig Check Yo Ponytail 2 in May. LA house legend Marques Wyatt was there too, and though he may not be doing his Deep parties every week, he told us he'll be back at Vanguard on April 30 along with Louie Vega. More scoop from Friday: model/designer/party freak Perish Dignam, seen tending to his "girls" (the club's blue wigged go-go dancers) revealed he'll also be getting his Vanguard on soon. His undergound bash Studio 69 has apparently lost its Culver City space and will soon be moving to the Hollywood club as well. We hear Diplo recently moved to Los Angeles, so don't be surprised to see him at any of the above.
See more photos from the night here.
Follow Lina Lecaro on Twitter at @L_in_A