Motor City USA has had its share of struggles lately. Fortunately, there's the electro-pop renderings of Detriot natives Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to keep a fallen empire dancing. The band is full of hometown pride, sporting Detroit Tigers warm-up jackets or Nascar jumpsuits during most of their sets. But their love of town translates to a love of homegrown music as well, in the form of covers such as the late great Gil Scott Heron's beautifully poetic "We Almost Lost Detroit."
The band's tremendous self-titled debut was on full display Sunday afternoon at ACL. After a raucous set at the Legion House the night prior, one would have expected a languid, half-hungover appearance. However, DEJJ came out firing, turning the Honda Stage into a playpen for smart glitch pop, layered Beach Boys-themed harmonies and enough wardrobe changes to make your head spin.
For two guys plus a drummer, DEJJ creates a wall of sound. And while there's plenty of looping and pedal work, the band never strays from its organic roots. "Our core interest is to make you dance," they told the crowd. And it was, but a few gimmicks—such as tossing hundreds of popsicles into the crowd and employing several bubble machines—strengthened their cause.
Two things seems to separate DEJJ from a slough of other like-minded artists. One: a strong vocal bond on stage that sees all three members delivering weighty and invaluable portions. Two: a respect for their industry elders. This afternoon, hats were tipped to everyone from Leonard Cohen to Steve Winwood. Leave it to DEJJ to tinker and tamper enough to make the latter's hugely popular hit "Higher Love" cool (though I'm positive all of the youngsters in the pit thought it was a colorful original).
The band delivered a surfy new track as well, one that stuck with the DEJJ game plan of multiple layers, resounding percussion and early 60's-era vocal tradeoffs. What's more, as great As DEJJ is on record, the band is all the more entertaining, experimental and wonderfully playful live and in stereo.
1. Morning Thought
2. An Ugly Person On A Movie Screen
3. When I Open My Eyes
4. God Only Knows (Beach Boys cover)
5. It's A Corporate World
6. New Track (unknown, but lovely)
7. Simple Girl
9. If It Wasn't You
10. Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen cover)
11. Vocal Chords
12. We Almost Lost Detroit (Gil Scott Heron cover)
13. Higher Love (Steve Winwood cover)
14. Nothing But Our Love