EDM fans had a lot to be excited about last week, as Ethan “Whethan” Snoreck brought his “Life Of A Wallflower Tour” to the Sylvee. The Chicago-based music producer performed at the Majestic last year, making his return to Madison at a new, much larger venue all the more anticipated.
Win and Woo (made up of Nick Winholt and Austin Woo) were the first act to perform. After opening for Louis the Child last year at the Orpheum, the duo’s return to Madison helped kick off the night yet again.
They played remixes of Hayley Kiyoko’s “Curious,” Phoebe Ryan’s “Ignition/Do You...” as well as Louis the Child’s “Better Off.” The array of pop tracks, purple lights and fruit-scented vape clouds from the crowd gave Win and Woo’s set a bubbly feel. Their selection of songs made for a slower start, the bassy beats blending into every track.
The pace picked up greatly near the end, as their version of Kanye West’s “Power” transitioned seamlessly into Ookay’s “Thief.” The two went out swinging during these final tracks, closing out their performance with every millenial’s favorite: The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.”
I was disappointed that Winholt didn’t bring out an electric guitar like he had done at the Orpheum, but the lack of outside instruments allowed their production to be the sole focus. With a pop-heavy playlist, Win and Woo’s hour onstage made for an enjoyable — though initially slow — start to the night.
The other opener was Manila Killa, a Filipino-American DJ based in Washington D.C. His order in the night’s lineup was perfect, as the artist’s playlist contained lively beats from start to finish.
His remixes to pop tracks were satisfying renditions, with CHVRCHES' "Miracle" and Ariana Grande’s “God Is a Woman” being standouts. I also enjoyed his versions of tracks from fellow EDM artists, including Porter Robinson’s “Flicker” and “Shelter.” Manila Killa’s remix of M83’s “Midnight City” was a great primer, as much of Whethan’s music draws from indie grooves and synth beats.
The crowd felt it, too. A random fan wearing LED lights on his fingers danced his way over to me and my friend, twirling his digits in cadence to the music. To my left, an older man — whose spiky blue wig channeled Rick Sanchez from “Rick and Morty” — also had glowing fingertips. I’m still not sure if there was a spot in the Sylvee selling these lights, or if I was just standing near the side of the crowd with more personality.
With an hour of songs consistent in quality, Manila Killa’s set felt like the co-main event rather than one of the openings. After a half hour wait, Whethan came out to a crowd already hyped from the previous two acts. Although the Sylvee’s upper level balconies had plenty of premium seating left, the floor was absolutely filled with fans.
(Chris Lotten/Courtesy of The Sylvee)
Just like the two opening acts, Whethan’s set made excellent use of lighting. There were also panels displaying graphics and animations that ran in tandem with the music, adding a cinematic layer to the show.
For being 19 years old, Snoreck already has a respectable list of contributors next to his name, including a number of popular female vocalists. “Love Gang” with Charli XCX has a steady electric guitar sample, while “High” — a sensuous song from the “Fifty Shades Freed” soundtrack — features Dua Lipa. He’s also collaborated with Ashe and the British alt-pop duo Oh Wonder.
In addition to these tracks, Whethan played songs from Honey, his joint record with Louis the Child. “Chop It Up” has stellar production, with a rising vocal sample fit for roller coaster rides at Six Flags. His remix of BROCKHAMPTON’s “STAINS” is also noteworthy, as the instrumentals flow effortlessly with the hip-hop boy band’s verses.
One of my favorite tracks from the night was his take on Travis Scott’s “STARGAZING,” as Whethan’s cover of the ASTROWORLD opener took the galactic track’s slow tempo and made it soar. Another highlight was his snare-heavy remix of Lorde’s “Perfect Places.” It’s not only a reminder of how great the Melodrama album is, but also that Whethan’s production is fantastic to hear live.
The artist eventually played “Radar” and “Be Like You,” new songs from his upcoming Life Of A Wallflower EP. Both have synth pop stylings with crisp vocals, and “Radar” in particular is a track I’ve jammed to countless times since its release two weeks ago. His newer work shows growth, as these tracks have stronger layering, vocals and beat drops.
Fans lost it when he got to “Savage,” which features “Lights Down Low” singer Max and Flux Pavilion. The record is actually how I discovered Whethan, as Max — like Win and Woo — opened for Louis the Child last year and performed the song. For me, it was the ideal track to end his set on.
He officially closed the night with an encore performance of his remix to “Backseat Freestyle,” a single from Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City album. Before leaving, he told fans to “spread the love,” a positive message that flooded the Sylvee with exhilarated shouts.
Whethan’s combination of original tracks and refined remixes was an entertaining set to listen to. If the artist ever returns to Madison for a third time, expect an even bigger mass of EDM fans to show up in support of the talented producer.
Brandon Arbuckle is an arts editor for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.