Robert DeLong

Upstairs Cabaret, Victoria BC, November 3

Robert DeLongUpstairs Cabaret, Victoria BC, November 3
Photo: Kim Jay
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A crowd plodded through the pouring rain last night to settle at Upstairs Cabaret in Victoria's Bastion Square to catch the multi-instrumental Robert DeLong. A local DJ, slotted as the opening act, plugged away at Drake tracks and subpar house, doing little more for the audience than providing generic club music while waiting for the headliner. Come 11 p.m., the turnout was alarmingly light, but DeLong's entrance amidst his sea of glowing onstage equipment perked up the crowd.

DeLong's percussive background was evident as he plundered a drum machine and slapped his midi setup as a half drum kit sat pristine at the side of the stage. Within minutes, it was easy to see how this guy was spotted by a label exec during a live show and signed to a record deal — no small feat when anyone with a laptop and a modicum of musical inclination these days can claim the title of musician. The amount DeLong does on stage is staggering, programming tracks by looping vocals, drum fills and adding subtleties like shakers and tambourines, moving between two drum setups — a timbale and standard kit — throughout any given track while employing a drum machine at the same time, and using modified electronics to filter synths through.

An old gaming joystick had been rigged to alter the range of the synths, and DeLong swung a Wii remote in arcs, adding reverb to his vocals. Arcade-era Mortal Kombat and Super Mario videos played in the background on the four-panel screen setup, keeping theme with the video game barrage used onstage. Geometric visuals bordering on the psychedelic would often dissolve to a stellar view over the keyboard, where DeLong's hands were flitting across the keys, slamming the drum pad, pounding the midi pad, gliding up the joystick and grabbing a second mic to provide vocal distortion. During "Happy," a wireless, modified old-school game controller showed up on screen while mushrooms and stars poured atop DeLong's hands in all their rainbow glitter glory, and his spastic finger movements across the old controller looked like a live rendition of the relic up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, A, B, A, B start command.

Though the crowd was small — the venue was at half-capacity, at most — their energy was palpable, and they knew every nuance of every song, filling the space with raised arms covered in glowing bracelets. Those in the shadows during the set found their way to the front for "Global Concepts," and the half-full venue suddenly had a teeming dance floor. A surprising electro-pop cover of Filter's "Take a Picture," complete with robotic vocals, seemed lost on the younger crowd, but a drum interlude with DeLong working the ride cymbal and rolling into "Change" had their attention once more. His setup and visuals certainly demand a larger venue, but DeLong worked the small space remarkably well, allowing the intimate crowd a view of him building songs sound-by-sound, piece-by-piece. A quick encore saw DeLong close the show by aggressively drumming atop thick bass and a room full of applause.

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