Flume opened his Greek Theatre set with the phrase “Hi, this is Flume,” a greeting that might have seemed ironic. Throngs of college students desperate for a break from frat row were buzzing for the entire preceding week. Every conversation between Cal students seemed to start with “Are you going to Flume?” and end with “See you there!”
But Flume’s been part of conversations for a while. Ten years, to be exact — his performance at the Greek being a celebration of such a milestone. A lot can happen during a decade of DJing, but Flume took it back to chapter one with his set’s opening numbers.
Using separate tracks as building blocks in the opening song “Helix,” he embedded a story in the layered synth, heavy bass and hi-hats. With little to no lyrics, Flume let the music speak for him to create a Genesis from primary EDM elements.
Flume evinced continuity in his fine-tuned performance equation. Modeled after the middle school English class’s curriculum — rising action, climax and falling action — he created a seamless show that ebbed and flowed in accordance with gauged audience reaction. High energy crowd pleasers such as “The Difference,” “Never Be Like You,” and “Say Nothing” were interspersed in between those that begged only a mellow head bob like “Holdin On/ Drop the Game,” “Daze 22.0,” and “Sleepless.” This meticulous balance between expression and restraint proved adept at conserving energy throughout the night.
Though Flume perfects a calibrated formula, he also recognizes his shortcomings. Being mute on stage for an entire set can be disengaging and repetitive, but Flume keeps things fresh with collaboration. Though he’s featured many in the industry, Vera Blue and Kučka shared the stage with him on Sept. 8. During songs such as “Hyperreal” and “Escape,” Flume dutifully played background instrumentals, demonstrating something many artists haven’t: comfortability with insignificance.
Artists also often struggle with originality, but Flume embraces — one could even say remixes — this discomfort. Many are cautious when covering songs, constantly dancing the line between theft and inspiration. But Flume isn’t scared of a little tight roping. He performed “Higher” by Ta-Ku and “Tennis Courts” by Lorde, airing more on the side of loose inspiration. The crowd didn’t seem to mind the electronic interpretations, evidenced by enthusiastic shouts and peppy dancing.
Perhaps the audience’s reaction was not only out of appreciation for Flume’s music but for the totalizing sensory experience that comes with it. The future bass revolution requires inseparability from experience and music.
The background screen displayed images varying from industrial hyperpunk to default Apple iPhone background-esque florals to colorful, grandiose birds from the promotion of his 2022 album, Palaces. Though the lyrics included in his remixes were generally imperceptible, the visual aids narrated his performance. During “You and Me” the screen flashed sensual scenes, playing on intimacy, eroticism and fluidity. Some may call it pornographic, others art, but nevertheless, it was passionate, mortal and became a necessary complement.
The set pieces were simple but striking. Massive white arches oscillated around Flume, keeping him centered in the main arch while white wings folded in on each other, sweeping across the stage in time with various kicks, hi-hats and claps. These classical architectural displays venerated Flume who already levitated amid a thick layer of fog on the stage: though small next to these edifices, he felt larger than life to his audience.
If you were lucky to be at the barricade in the audience, the fog from the stage crept down to obscure the faces of those closest to you, which though objectively unsettling, didn’t feel so. By contrast, these faceless characters were comforting. How often do so many people experience the same thing at the same time in the same place?
Flume forces listeners to truly know music — to feel it so vividly it becomes you. Whether we were introduced to him from an AirPods commercial, or that video from Burning Man, or maybe from the stands of Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on Sept. 8 — Flume enters the cultural consciousness as a true pillar of EDM.