On my way to the Majestic Theatre for Wednesday night's Dillon Francis show, I noticed a group of lost-looking teens. They huddled together on Capitol Square, trying to find their way to the massive dance party they'd heard about -- the same one I was about to attend. Dressed like beach-bound fraternity pledges from the 1980s, they seemed marooned in the wrong decade. Apparently this is the uniform for fans of Francis, a brash young DJ from sunny L.A.
Before Francis appeared, DJ Vaughn and Flosstradamus warmed up the stage with some dubstep and raptronica. DJ Vaughn went on first. He positioned himself within grasping distance of the audience, where he cut in and out of different tracks and beats, over and over again. As if anticipating a rocket liftoff, he kept announcing how much time he had left to play: 30 minutes, then 10, then two.
Next came Chicago duo Flosstradamus, who played a long track of driving beats laced with hip-hop vocals. Though they didn't mention Madison, they shouted, "Midwest is in the building!" before blasting "Mercy," a track by their hometown hero, Kanye West.
After midnight, as Dillon Francis prepared to start his set, two of the California dreamers I noticed earlier were called onto the stage. They waved a large paper sign that read "Fuck You." Francis burst through it like a football team taking the field, then used some cheerleading tactics to get the crowd to chant "fuck." Red light emblazoned the word across his DJ table as well. Perhaps "fuck" is a response to a question he must hear all the time: "What the fuck is Moombahton?"
Moombahton, you see, is Francis' specialty. It's a type of electronic music that combines reggaeton and house music. House DJ Dave Nada coined the term 2010, after he slowed a remix of his track "Moombah" to 108 beats per minute, the speed of most reggaeton tracks.
The f-bomb seemed to be a crowd-revving device. For the most part, it belied Francis' clean-scrubbed appearance, which included button-up shirt and slicked-back hair. He seemed too friendly to be a true badass. Instead of heading out after the show, he stuck around for pictures and autographs. At the record decks, he was a hard worker, not an irreverent slacker. His set of Moombahton and dubstep showcased a wide variety of sounds, from keyboards to female vocals.
Francis' recordings don't really prepare you for his explosive live performances. The energy was palpable at this show, and no one seemed to pine for old-fashioned instruments. Throngs of young fans danced feverishly, as if morning would never come.