Don't sleep on Duke Dumont.
Don't sleep on Duke Dumont.
Photo by Jake Pierce / Poplife

We Made the Mistake of Underestimating Duke Dumont, and Our Feet Paid the Price

I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go. I’ve seen Duke Dumont DJ a few times, and every time it was good, but hearing about his new live set triggered something in my brain. It’s like I started to consider him a “live artist,” in the vein of Disclosure or Flume, and that was a fatal mistake.

I’d caught a bit of his full-band performance at EDC Vegas this summer, and it was incredible. His music translates perfectly into live composition, so much so, you’d think he wrote it that way in the first place. I was so looking forward to the Blasé Boys Club live tour, so when I heard the live element was scrapped and therefore his performance at Heart would be another DJ set, something inside me was like, “Oh, well. Hmm.”

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Going to see a live artist DJ is kind of lame. I’d much rather see Disclosure live, because that’s what those dudes do. When you tell me Neon Indian is playing, then put (DJ set) next to his name, I’m immediately disappointed. Sure, it’s going to be good, but I can get “good” from one in five assholes walking down the street. Everyone’s a so-called DJ these days. Give my dad a turntable for a year and he’s going to give me a “good” set at my next birthday party.

So I get to Heart, and I’m stoked to see there’s a big line, because even if it’s not gonna be a show-stopping live set, dude deserves his crowd. Inside, it feels a lot like Club Space only smaller. It gives the same kind of vibe, couples dancing on risers and dark corners with one or two finger-glovers running brain trains on a couch. The clientele is a bit different, slightly more hip in their dress, but I’d say Dumont now sits just one inch underground of the mainstream, and there were all types there to enjoy his U.K. sound.

Dumont delivered the set Heart deserved.
Dumont delivered the set Heart deserved.
Photo by Jake Pierce / Poplife

I didn’t realize what a heartthrob he’s become. As soon as his one-dangling-earring-wearing ass hit the booth, all the girls screamed in delight, but my heart didn’t start beating with love until he took over the decks. Something like 15 or 20 minutes in, it hit me like a bullet train. I had been so wrong. Yes, Duke Dumont is a fabulous live artist, and yes, he can arrange a house track into something much grander, but he is first and foremost an incredibly talented DJ, and let no jaded hipster ever make the mistake of thinking otherwise.

He doesn’t simply transition, as so many live artists learn to do. Dumont actually mixes his tracks, building each one on top of the other until he reaches perfection. He’s also the build/drop master, teasing the bass out of a beat until every ounce of your body is tension, only to come bubbling up out of your hands as they rush toward the sky when it returns.

Though his fans may scream loudest for “Need U” or “I Got U,” his track selection outside his own catalog is equally impressive. There was this one track, I couldn’t explain to you how it goes, but I’m not ashamed to admit I tried to Shazam it three times. That’s what a DJ set should be: the excitement of discovering a new song, the chance to hear old familiar tunes in a new light, in a sense, a few refreshing hours of captivation and surprise.

When the last echoes of his latest single, “Ocean Drive,” faded into memory and the red and blue disco lights dissolved into standard yellow, I was tired and hungry, but I was far from disappointed. One day, I’m sure I’ll get my fully live Dumont fix, but until that time comes, I’ll be sure to check in every time the Duke drops a DJ set in my town.

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