Starting off the night, Cashmere Cat—an up-and-coming Norwegian DJ—threw together a mix of relatively mellow hip-hop tunes. He was quite masterful in his ability to create unique, exciting buildups full of atypical, interesting rhythms; however, come the drop, nobody in the audience knew what to do. Awkward bobbing ensued.
To be fair, I have to admit that Cashmere Cat has grown on me since attending this show; but I still don’t find his music all that “rageable,” as it were. And rage is exactly what this crowd was ready to do. Big room, trap, moombahton—these are all examples of the heart-pounding, rage-inducing genres that a crowd coming to see Dillon Francis would expect. That being said, the crowd was not receptive to the performance from Cashmere Cat, leaving their thirst to rage completely unquenched.
Next came the one-of-a-kind band Anamanaguchi. Their sound featured a unique blend of 8-bit sound and rock. Wow. Going into this show, I must admit: I was skeptical as to how good an 8-bit rock band would sound live. Maybe it’s because the drummer in me misses the sound of a live drum set after having gone to so many electronic shows, but I thought Anamanaguchi killed it. The average Dillon Francis fan likely has no or little clue as to who or what Anamanaguchi is, yet they managed to captivate and rejuvenate the relatively calm crowd that Cashmere Cat had left them with. Contrasting greatly with the sound of a DJ, the live-band sound that Anamanaguchi brought was certainly a refreshing addition to the evening.
Now, Dillon Francis is a unique character. As a goofy guy with a fiery love for cats, tacos, Internet foolery, and, of course, music, Francis is not the average DJ. Anyone who has stumbled across his YouTube channel probably knows a little something about his taco-fueled antics and knows who Hanzel is. Sadly, Francis did not bring along any tacos to share at his concert at the NYC-based venue Terminal 5. No. He brought something much more special: DJ Hanzel.
So who is DJ Hanzel? Well, DJ Hanzel is a well-dressed European DJ who absolutely loves deep house (and hates trap music). A Dillon Francis alter-ego of sorts. If you take a visit to Francis’s YouTube channel, you’ll find the video that started it all: One Deeper. This video features comedic conversations between Dillon Francis and DJ Hanzel (simply Francis dressed in a suit with sunglasses.)
Francis kicked off his set as you would expect: mixing an array of big room “bangers,” often remixed into a trap format—a trend that has been growing in popularity for quite a while now. While the songs he chose may be considered, by some, cliché—think songs like “Animals” and “Tsunami”—one could not deny Francis’ ability to energize the audience. Energetically dancing, standing on the DJ booth, and occasionally addressing the audience with enthusiasm, Francis really raised the energy levels, and did so fast. And just as fast as he raised the energy—he stopped, leaving the entire venue perplexed. Where did Francis go?
Suddenly, someone entered the stage. The lighting seemed changed. The mood—perhaps facilitated by the lighting—seemed changed as well. It was him. The man himself. The legend: DJ Hanzel! “Hello New York,” Hanzel said in the most goofy, sarcastic, European accent you can imagine. Something about the whole thing made it hilarious. Francis was actually performing as the silly character he used to make jokes online. The idea of the whole thing was just absurd—which made it great. Overall, DJ Hanzel played a killer deep house set. Who knew Dillon Francis is actually good at mixing deep house (and probably likes it?)
Not long after Hanzel exited the stage, Francis returned and quickly exclaimed,” How’d you guys like DJ Hanzel? That guy’s an a**hole!” To my surprise, Francis didn’t choose to immediately change the vibe of the deep house party created by DJ Hanzel. Eventually he did, but not as fast as one would expect.
As many artists do at shows, Francis auditioned some of his new material for us to hear; and if memory serves, a lot of it was deep house. Perhaps DJ Hanzel is more than a just a funny character, but also an intelligent strategy being employed by Francis to help his fans grow receptive to the direction in which he wishes to take his music (i.e., get his fans to like deep house before he makes deep house.) Is deep house the true future of Dillon Francis? It’s a possibility.
To close the show, Francis came to the front of the stage, becoming swallowed up by the extended arms of his adoring fans. He addressed his fans, pointing out that he wouldn’t be where he is without them.
Overall, there was something that was just plain funny about Dillon Francis; the guy makes you want to laugh. Especially when incorporating DJ Hanzel into his act, he comes off as much as a comedian as he does a DJ, and put on a great show.