Hippie Sabotage at the Riviera
By Oscar De Leon
The cold Chicago winter weather did not keep an eager crowd of rave maniacs from waiting outside the Riviera Theater, dressed as if it was a hot summer day at Lollapalooza. Following up their own Lollapalooza performance this past August, Hippie Sabotage brought equivalent levels of extreme energy, charisma and intensity to the Riviera Theater during their Friday, March 1st show.
Sebastian Paul, a young DJ/producer, opened the show with a high energy level that the crowd was unwilling to match. His use of backing tracks, paired with his awkward stage presence, resulted in a 40-minute set whose only redeeming quality was the stage and lighting aesthetic. Paul repeatedly pleaded with the audience to jump along, but never got his wish. His music simply does not demand the energy that he craved from his audience. If he had wanted an EDM crowd, adding more visuals and more variation to his setlist could have helped. Paul’s beats were actually very good, with traces of 90s hip-hop in them, but EDM and hip-hop are simply two different animals. His opening set was truly lackluster and the only excitement he managed to elicit from the unenthusiastic onlookers came from his two crowd-surfing attempts, both of which resulted in him getting pushed back to the rail very quickly. To Paul’s credit, he is a fine producer. He just needs to work on how to engage his audience.
Hippie Sabotage, consisting of brothers Kevin and Jeff Sauer, took the stage shortly after and were met with deafening roars from the crowd. Before starting the show, one of the brothers yelled, “We like dancing! We like jumping! We like screaming! We like moshing!” These four actions were dutifully represented throughout the duo’s 90-minute set. Within the first few moments of their set, it was hard to believe that this was the same crowd that had stood idly during the opener. Hands were in the air, bodies were thrown against each other, and the brothers kept instructing the crowd to scream, “I don’t give a fuck! What!” Additionally, the visuals created a beautiful and distinct aesthetic that added to the already-wild atmosphere and gave the audience the illusion of tripping hard. The visuals were a key component to the show. Sometimes they were trippy, sometimes they were humorous and sometimes they were majestic. No matter what, they always captivated with crazy color schemes and flashing lights.
Kevin spent the majority of the set as the duo’s hype man. Dressed in a drug rug, he began offering the crowd joints, throwing water bottles into the crowd, and head-banging like there was no tomorrow. Those lucky enough to be in the pit got smacked by every bass drop the duo offered. Meanwhile, many of the set’s lo-fi rap songs featured Jeff’s guitar playing, which served as a moment of calm to observe the duo’s true musicianship and showmanship before launching back into intense trap beats that demanded full-out moshing. Their performance of “Devil Eyes” was a refresher for the audience and got the crowd singing along. The live performance sounded nearly identical to the studio recording, but that was no problem. Their guitar playing and striking visuals and lighting compensated for the backing tracks. Jeff took to the stage with his guitar and sang the song while accompanied by mind-blowing visuals. Though the crowd showed its intensity, they also proved that they could vibe to the chill guitar music.
The duo’s set was full of wonder and creativity, which unfortunately could not be sustained over the course of the entire show. Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE” and Sheck Wes’s “Mo Bamba” made their way into the set, taking away from the experience. Every minute the set continued, the more tired the crowd got and the more intense the music became. During the show, Kevin and the duo’s roadies brought out a shipment of over 100 t-shirts to throw into the audience. For the next fifteen minutes, shirts were thrown all over the Riviera, especially to the balcony. This was the duo’s chance to show love to a section of the theatre that was going crazy even though they were nowhere near the stage. This helped wake up the crowd for an explosive ending. Near the end of the set, the duo invited Sebastian Paul onto the stage, during which the crowd was instructed to split in half so Paul could run down the middle. Jeff joined the crowd shortly after to high five crowd members. I had the pleasure to compliment him on his guitar playing and shake his hand. During this time, Kevin demanded the audience go crazy. Kevin dropped a new song as Jeff rapped it in the crowd. Phones were everywhere. Jeff did not mind people moshing around him and people hugging him during all of this. This only goes to show how much Hippie Sabotage cares about their fans.
Hippie Sabotage is something special and their show put this on full display: it was an intense, mellow, beautiful and riotous experience. The name of the duo serves them well. Their hippie outfits and stoner attitude mixed with their riotous and destructive shows establish these guys as an amazing experience. Overall, the duo is definitely worth checking out and an unquestionable must-see for EDM fans or anyone who likes to bang their head to loud music. Those who witness Hippie Sabotage in close proximity will have their ears ringing for hours after the show’s over.