In Festival Guide Reviews

Love them or hate them, The Chainsmokers put on a good party at the Amp Tuesday night.

Are The Chainsmokers worth the hate? Their Summerfest Amp show says no

Few things in music right now are as popular as The Chainsmokers, but hating the EDM duo comes in a mighty close second.

I mean, how else are you supposed to react to their infamous Billboard cover story from last fall, featuring the duo of Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall bragging about their partying abilities, jabbing bands that rejected them in the past now wanting to work with the DJs (cough, Weezer, cough) and more bragging about women and drinking. Oh, and their combined penis size, measured "tip to tip." By the end, Pall called them "just frat bro dudes," as if that wasn't already made clear and cringe-inducingly obvious by the rest of the article.

And that's all before you remember they're the guys behind 2014's "#SELFIE," starring spoken word lyrics from the world's most vacuous party girl.

Once the nation finally picked up the eyeballs that had rolled right out of their skulls, they got around to gathering their hate for The Chainsmokers on the internet – from the AV Club, to Refinery29, to even just random music students on YouTube. An Esquire piece (written by ... Matt Miller. Well, that's weird) called them "the Nickelback of EDM," and months later, the notorious band offered the two DJs some career advice. And when Chad Kroeger, lead singer of Nickelback, is giving you advice on being hated, something's gone wrong.

Or has it?

The Chainsmokers have only continued to pump out hits, including "Paris" and the Coldplay collaboration "Something Just Like This." Then there's the DJs' live act, which they brought to Milwaukee's American Family Insurance Amphitheater Tuesday night, complete with a brand new light show and set according to their Twitter account as well as plenty of fireworks for the Fourth of July.

And as much as you want to hate them, as much as you remember them talking about manhood measurements in published magazine articles and as much as their VMA performance last fall was ... concerning, I have to admit: They put on a pretty good show. If they are self-proclaimed frat bro dudes, at least they're the kind that throw the best parties on campus.

Hitting the stage at around 9:30 p.m. to an excitable and energetic (though maybe about 75 percent full) crowd, Taggart and Pall came out blasting "The One" behind a giant video platform stretching the whole stage – as well as another screen in the background – playing glitchy text messages and emojis. The guys turned the Amp into a rave, strobe lights of all colors bursting from the stage and fun little graphics of dancing cartoons busting a move all over their video boards.

The guys may not have come across well in print, but on stage, they make for fine and energetic party hosts. The two didn't stay behind their monolithic platform for long, each one taking their turn to hop on top of their set and – especially Pall – bounce and skip up and down the entire thing to the beat, and get the crowd riled with some typical "Come on, Milwaukee" cheers, spiced up a little with some patriotic flair Tuesday night thanks to the holiday. "If you're feeling patriotic as f*ck, make some noise," they shouted in the near the end of a firework-filled version of "Until You Were Gone."

With the help of drummer Matt McGuire, The Chainsmokers delivered a constant stream of dropped basses and sick EDM beats, creating an addictive party atmosphere before slowing things down a bit for a rendition of their pop song, "Break Up Every Night." Oddly enough, their most popular songs – "Roses," even the monster hits "Closer" and "Something Just Like This" – felt like comedowns from the raving, raucous, relentless EDM show the duo was putting on. There was inherent excitement (they are the hits, after all) but once that initial rush wore off – or didn't even kick in the first place for some of the other pop numbers off their moody, melancholy album, "Memories ... Do Not Open" – they served as almost a mild energy divot.

The guys are definitely EDM dudes attempting to fully move into the pop world, and that shift is awkwardly felt sometimes in the live show, like two different concerts or bands were fighting for stage time. You'd move from crazed light-fueled rave dance party to slower, sadder pop lament, and eventually back again. Either the EDM fun felt cut down by the pop, or the pop sections played like channel-flipping on the radio, as many were shortened and condensed.

Despite those mild momentary lulls, however, The Chainsmokers kept things entertaining the entire night. Near the middle of the 90-minute set, the self-confessed "emo kids at heart" played a quick burst of Panic! At The Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," and later on, they gave McGuire a chance to bust out his inner "Whiplash" and go nuts on the drum set for a solo. Again, an odd detour or distraction from the dance party vibe generally unleashed, but still a fun aside.

Meanwhile, the new light show kept things bright and bouncy – literally in the case of a few cartoon dancing mascots. From the many, many fireworks and flames to some really nifty screen setups that almost gave the stage a 3-D sense of depth – such as a car or rooftop city apartment – it was the kind of satisfying sensory overload you expect from a big star-studded EDM show.

The two continued to avoid staying silent and stationary behind their equipment either, bouncing around the stage and saluting America with a toast before jumping right into "Paris." An actually clever bit of transitioning wordplay? From The Chainsmokers?! Who knew? However, it sounded like Taggart requested a Bud Light for their toast, which luckily breezed over past most of the locals in the audience.

"Paris" dissolved nicely into "Something Just Like This," "New York City" and, the set's finale, "Don't Let Me Down," ending the night on one of the duo's brighter, peppier singles.

As the duo further moves toward pop – or maybe back toward EDM – they'll hopefully put together a more cohesive set in the future, one that doesn't make the pop songs feel a bit like buzzkills from the high energy of the EDM. But as a live show, The Chainsmokers put on an overall good time – one that almost made you forget about the penis measurements and bro-y bragging. Almost.


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