Flume Red Rocks Amphitheatre September 12th

This year’s Red Rocks gig is where Flume (real name Harvey Edward Streten) finally made sense to me.

A bonkers statement for sure, but is it really? Four years have passed since the Burning Man booty munching incident, and even more recent was his shockingly left-field Instagram post about OceanGate-gate.

Aside from Streten’s real-world antics, his discography is mind-boggling, consisting of productions that span electronic genres to create a massive, lo-fi analog sound that draws vocalists like Tove Lo and Beck. His beats sometimes almost make no sense, like a broken drum machine struggling to push out the patterns in time. Soulful, hauntingly catchy ballads shoved into place by brazen and abrasive drumcode patterns create an aural alien soundscape that’s taken the world by storm. His formula breaks any and all rules of music with incredible effect year after year since his debut in 2012.

But despite that, Flume has always kept me guessing. Who could forget his 2019 Red Rocks headline set, featuring the interesting JPEGMAFIA performances both nights and Streten himself playing his set by sledgehammering old electronics on stage? I could be down with a theatre-type performance, but we can all agree those nights were really, really weird.

So you can understand why I was nervous for this 2023 edition of Red Rocks. Streten dropped two LPs earlier in the year with crazy titles, crazy song names, and zany experimental beats that sometimes border the lines of music. They are objectively good, the sound of analog synthesizer stacks crippled and underpowered as if Streten were making this music on a castaway island with emergency generators. Both works are thematic, dramatic, and floaty enough to make it on any study playlist.

But there’s no denying both are weird. Top to bottom, every song leaves my brain twitching in a new direction. It had me concerned that 2023 might be another edition where I would ask whether this was a Flume show or a strangely lit chop shop stage.

I was rather pleased with the support on the show. Both nights opened with Kučka and Leon Vynnehall, each bringing their own revolutionary flavor of analog disco. This was a thankful nod to anyone over the age of 25 in attendance. Being an all-ages show, I’d understand how some of the high school-aged kids and under would not have known what to do with such sneaky, minimal production.

Friday also featured Interplanetary Criminal, who put on a nonstop rager for an entire hour straight. Diving straight into his hard house/UKG repertoire, he kept the crowd going crazy with remixes of classic EDM bangers and his own catalog of hot originals. Overmono on Wednesday night was equally a treat. The English duo are known for catchy originals and viscous, rolling breakbeat grooves, keeping the crowd fully engaged for their hour-long set.

Both nights were the same essential Flume radio style with immersive performances of his best songs to date. I was pleased that it wouldn’t be another crazy, theatrical set. Streten swapped the construction equipment for two tables stacked with analog synthesizers and sequencers, coming out strong to the tune of “Helix” and 8,000 pairs of hands in the air each night. His visible performances of these songs finally make me understand the incredibly tangible and human element to his crazy sound, something that I once found completely alien to the rest of pop music.

Vera Blue and Kučka both joined Streten on stage at multiple points to sing hit songs, including “Never Be Like You,” “Rushing Back,” and “Escape.” Kučka’s live singing into Vocaloid voice changers was an epic sight to behold. It’s always cool to see these alien elements of music breathed into existence with live human performances.

I have to thank Flume this year. His past releases and crazy off-stage behavior always keep me guessing whether he’s bringing some shock factor to the show, but he kept it correct for 2023. I felt like each song could be honored and cherished by any generation of electronic music lovers, a timeless sound enjoyed by all ages… Seriously.

(Intentionally leaving out how this reporter is only 30, but the crowd made him feel he needed an AARP card to be there).

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