The Chainsmokers Are The Brotastic Hit Of 2016’s ACL – But Can We Expect Them To Rule UK Festivals In 2017?

The Chainsmokers are two self-described ‘frat bros’ from New York City who specialise in flurries of hyperactive EDM. Since the release of their 2014 debut single ‘#Selfie’, they’ve still not released an album but have grown in popularity to the point that, when they play Saturday night at Austin City Limits Festival, they’ve probably drawn the largest crowd of the day bar headliner Kendrick Lamar, who will magnificently follow their set with a nuance and musicianship totally opposite to The Chainsmoker’s bombast. Right now, in October 2016, the duo are enjoying a peak in popularity enabled by their recent collaboration with the Bieber-featured popstar Halsey, ‘Closer’. It’s seen them top the UK and US charts for six consecutive weeks, and it recently became their third double-platinum single of the year.

In a recent Billboard interview the pair (Drew Taggart, 26 and Alex Pall, 31) explained that part of their website’s bio, “17.34 combined inches” referred to “our penises combined… tip to tip”. Later, they added that “even before success, pussy was number one”. They had a ‘Friendzone Tour’ last year, and that word is emblazoned on the screens behind them at one point, but in spoken word tonight they’re less ostentatiously brash, instead periodically opting to shout “AC-fucking-L”, “ACL we came to go hard as fuck” and “If you came to go hard as fuck, let me hear you scream right now”.

The Chainsmokers’ vibe comes across far more directly in their high-energy setlist, which has two elements. It’s both an adrenaline-fuelled DJ set – with juiced-up remixes of tracks like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Under The Bridge’ or Dr Dre’s ‘Still Dre’, for example – and their own tracks, both pumped up by enormous, kaleidoscopic screens and macho spurts of flame and smoke. Constantly in pursuit of the next drop, their set flails about like a hose on full blast – they climb their decks and jump about, and crowd goes wild on their torrents of thumping bass and gummy synth. At one point they get everyone to kneel down before jumping up at the drop – a trick oddly similar to one used by Sheffield metal quintet Bring Me The Horizon, and one that you’d imagine could work equally well on a crowd at Reading & Leeds.

Things take a necessarily quieter turn for ‘All We Know’ feat. Phoebe Ryan but within a minute we’re back at their high BPM. It’d be difficult to extend this experience beyond an hour without it requiring some lower-key moments. When their biggest hit, slow-jam ‘Closer’, finally arrives, Taggart doesn’t sing his part live, nor does Halsey show up for a surprise appearance – they just speed up the track midway through once more, and the crowd continues to go nuts. When it ain’t broke…

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