Review: The Chainsmokers @ The Warfield, San Francisco 11/6

The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco carries an opulence that’s pretty much impossible to replicate in modern venues. Built on a foundation that dates back to the early 1920s, its walls sing of a long creative history, connecting generations through the nuances of expressive art. One of these nuances - whether or not our forefathers would put it so bluntly - is an aptitude for not giving a fuck. No matter the era, culture has always moved forward when some people decided they were going to do things differently. That’s the vibe that reverberated throughout the sold out venue Thursday night.

“I don’t smoke crack, motherfucker, I sell it!!!” is a line everyone in attendance might remember, as it was the very first thing Drew yelled out to the crowd as the headlining duo prepared to take the decks, thickening the plot more and more as he repeated it. An appropriated Kendrick Lamar line isn't exactly the quote you’d expect an “EDM act” to open their set with, but if you know anything about Alex and Drew of the Chainsmokers, you know they’re the poster boys for not giving a fuck. Their fans, a feverish league of 18 to 20-somethings dressed casually and combed to perfection, were all for it, too.

I could feel the energy and the guys still hadn’t spun their first track. It was similar to cheering on a good friend who invited you to his/her showcase for moral support; no matter how good or terrible they might be, you’d be their personal cheerleader for the simple fact that it's your homie. The Chainsmokers’ rise to fame with the pop culture relevance of “#SELFIE” and their ever-increasing catalogue of remixes should be enough to muzzle naysayers who still question their talent, but I’m almost certain the music wasn’t what brought the energy levels to almost deafening heights way before the initial lid was removed. I'd bet it was because no matter how big the Chainsmokers get, they still seem like guys we all went to high school or college with. The homies you just want to cheer on.


While the opening was the most special moment for me, personally, the entire set was nothing short of Alex and Drew’s eclectic music tastes and niche for melody, presented in such a way where I was often left thinking, “Damn, this original song would be so much better if it actually used these vocals.” But what was arguably most impressive was the pace the two managed to control – torrid one moment when dropping tracks like “I Can’t Take It No More” by Dillon Francis and jubilating the next when rotating to uplifting tunes like their classic remix of Smallpools’ “Dreaming.”

“Where's all my real Chainsmoker fans at who’ve been down with us since day 1?” Drew called out to the amenable crowd. There’s always room for nostalgia at their shows, which causes one to think it’s every bit for them and remembering how it all started as it is for the fans in attendance who were there from the jump.

Just to show the extent to how much they don’t give a fuck, Alex and Drew would even purposefully break the fluidity of their set by dropping some “unexpected” rap, notably paying homage to their hometown of New York by spinning Bobbdy Shmurda’s anthem, “Hot N*gga.” We see a lot of DJs try it, but it often comes across as a gimmick. Not that two middle-class white guys with amazing hair intrinsically have what it takes to drop a Bobby Shmurda track in urban San Francisco on a Thursday night; it’s the mindset they carry along with them that makes it okay. One that says it’s okay to crowd surf with the people who paid to party with you tonight. One that says it’s okay to stand atop expensive stage equipment and scream obscenities to the fans’ delight. One that says its okay to be yourself and not give a fuck no matter what. It's the pillar upon which all of their success is built and probably the one thing they'd want each person who attends their shows or listens to their music to take away. San Francisco seemed to get it. The Warfield rocked in affirmation.