When I heard Pete Tong was coming to Royale I was ecstatic… until I realized it was on a Friday club night. Usually the crowds that go out looking to club wouldn’t be receptive to Tong’s typical tech house setlist. However, online tickets sold out, which showed that the crowd coming to this show would be a good one. Royale was close to capacity at 10:30, causing the guestlist to close early and an hour-long wait in line. By the last 15 minutes of local opener DJ Breeazy’s set, the entire main floor was filled. With Evolution 101.7 FM taking over the Boston airwaves it was no surprise there was a mixed crowd ranging from EDM elitists to the standard club goers wanting to see what Pete Tong was all about.
Starting off his set with “I Can Tell (By The Way You Move)” – George Fitzgerald [Paul Woolford Remix] gave me hope for a cool groove for the rest of the night. Everyone in the room seemed to enjoy the start of a tech and deep house set. Even when he dropped more familiar tracks such as Disclosure’s “Grab Her,” Pryda’s “Layers” and Jeremy Olanders’ “Let Me Feel” there was never a surge of response for one track over another; no one cared if they knew the song, they were in a moment. He was telling a story, and the crowd was completely immersed in every minute that passed — grooving and dancing in whatever form they knew. Pete Tong seemed like a man of few words– he got on the mic to say “What’s up Boston!? Wave your hands around like you won the World Series or something, did that just happen!?” I chuckled a little, being a Boston native, but it broke the deep house cloud 9 I fell onto after I heard my current favorite- “Evil Tram” from Catz Eats Dogz.
My reverie was over after the sudden change over to his 15 to 20 minutes of big room electro, throwing in “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat” (Calvin Harris Remix) – Riva Starr & Fatboy Slim. Cue quickest escape route? Not generating the response he had hoped, Tong went back to his original game plan using “Bassline” – GotSome ft. Get Along Gang and the popular “Bigger Than Prince” (Hot Since 82 Remix) – Green Velvet. He dropped back down to 120bpm and that’s where it stayed. It was an interesting night for sure, especially with Tong’s decision to end with a Felix Da Housecat track to which I could see a majority of the crowd had not a clue what they were hearing. Nonetheless, the dancefloor was packed throughout the night and people were dancing more than I have ever seen in the past year at Royale. I was happy to see Pete Tong, not only headlining but also with him making choices of his own. He was not escorted off stage like so many other “big name DJs” have been across the globe for playing less-than-commercial sets. Maybe this is what Boston, perhaps even the entire EDM scene needs: a night where an artist can be themselves. No expectations for a “rage fest;” no overplayed tracks that the entire club turns into an oversized karaoke session. Just an artist, an open floor, and a hard-to-ID playlist.