You could call it an occupation. Day two of EXIT festival and the Petrovaradin Fortress is bombarded with beats that shake the battlements and bass that rattles the catacombs. This is The Chainsmokers, pulling out the big guns on a mission to invade all of pop culture and call it their own.
Alex Pall and Drew Taggart arrive at their gigantic video podium at 2.30am to the fanfare of the ‘Seven Nation Army’ riff and don’t leave until they’ve doused emo, R’n’B and everything in between in EDM stampedes, flumes of fireworks and blasts of steam. At the first hint of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Say My Name’, Drew is up on the podium, a cross between Keith Flint and Channing Tatum, a cheese-beat cheerleader. He rouses the crowd to a frenzy for their recent 5 Seconds Of Summer collaboration ‘Who Do You Love’, pumps his arms to a snippet of the Rocky theme like he’s in the world’s raviest boxing gym and delivers the odd bit of vocodered vocal over Pall’s drainpipe beats, gremlin rave and face-melting whoomps so deep they scoop an extra few feet out of the floor of the Danube. He’s the freshest face of US boyband EDM, the point where haggard Danes bopping nonchalantly along to a pen drive need to seriously up their game.
The Chainsmokers also do their damndest to live up to the genre-straddling ethos they claim for themselves. Their Coldplay collaboration ‘Something Just like This’ only serves to pull Chris martin into the outer reaches of their EDM gravity, but when they drop in snippets of Papa Roach’s ‘Last Resort’, indulge in crazed ragga or go rap pop on ‘Everybody Hates Me’, they seem to epitomise the millennial myth that everybody loves everything. With ‘Sick Boy’, a proper song even emerges, an atmospheric piano pop piece attacking the modern “narcissism” of how new generations define themselves by online popularity. Hand in hand with Calvin, this is EDM emerging from behind the smoke and mirrors and engaging with pop music on its own terms.
It’s also the high-point of EXIT 2019’s biggest, beatiest day. Earlier, a thumping Dance Arena set from Peggy Gou went head-to-head with Chase & Status’s Return II Jungle show on the main stage – the first half of C&S’s stage time is given over to electro-ragga acts amphetamising “beats coming out of the depth of the ghettos of Jamaica”. Think Dawn Penn’s ‘You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)’ turned up to ‘ferocious’. When C&S themselves join the party they deliver a sleek, refined breed of jungle, and while you wonder why we need to “return to the original source” unless we’re all out of ideas, they reimagine it with a techno vitality that, in places, verges on a ragga Prodigy. Fittingly they take a moment to remember Flint, the firestarter’s image gurning from the screen like a benevolent overseer.
Out in the fortress, the night pumps on. At the AS FM stage, DJ Lock’d drops Jay-Z samples into his gabba rap stew; at the X-Bass Pit Synchronicity ply whomp-heavy speed techno and a natty line in rainbow jumpers. Only Hungary’s Mongooz And The Magnet (pictured) dare to rock, blasting out classic blues rock while the bassist flings around a double bass like an overloaded Paul Simonon.
EXIT continues tonight (July 6) with sets from Greta Van Fleet and Tom Walker.