The Jersey Shore star didn’t exactly sell out the Sound Academy, but enough people showed up to hear him play his bedroom-born mash-ups. We investigate just what the scene was like.
The afternoon before Jersey Shore cast member (DJ) Pauly D (a.k.a. Paul DelVecchio) was slated to play the Sound Academy, it just so happened that I caught a video on MuchMoreMusic from a recent Deadmau5 show in Toronto. The mouse ear–clad, neon-glowing crowd was electric, the scope of the production—in its lights and sounds—was grandiose, Deadmau5’s own headgear was pretty boss and his command of the crowd was captivating. He was a show.
Pauly D, on the other hand, was none of that.
For events unfortunate enough to be booked at the Sound Academy, I sometimes like to travel in style on the Pape bus with all my fellow concertgoers, if only observe their ridiculous excitement that turns the ride into an eighth-grade school-bus trip to, say, Canada’s Wonderland. One time, on my way to Robyn, there was a full-on dance party courtesy of everyone’s iPhone speakers, and some guy even tried to sell me ecstasy.
This time, we were alone.
Naturally, as non-partisan as I am to the cult of binge-drinking, excessive tanning, racial stereotypes and hair gel with which the Jersey Shore brand has become synonymous, you’d expect to find a certain kind of person here. I mean, people were genuinely anxious for this show. The Facebook event page had several buoyant entries, people entered The Grid’s Twitter ticket giveaway with zeal, and the tweets themselves were entertaining enough. Yet, you wonder who exactly comes to a Pauly D show? Some by force, and, yes, some by sheer will. Brace yourself.
It’s been almost a decade since my last all-ages club night. This is awkward. The parking lot is packed, which explains why my bus was not: Everyone either drove in from the surrounding suburbs or got a ride from mom. The venue isn’t at capacity—nowhere near it—but there are enough of us here to warrant a show.
OMG—the laptop is bedazzled with an Italian flag, and reads “Pauly D” across it. How did I not see that until now? Is this our decade’s equivalent of the “grill”? I haven’t watched a lot of Jersey Shore, but I’ve watched enough to wonder, “How fucked up is Pauly D right now?” I mean, do you think he takes his “craft” seriously? This is a long way from spinning at $2 shooter college nights. Oh wait, well…
“Kiss 92 is in the houseeee. Hope y’all are ready to fist pump!” Uh huh.
Oh no, the trucker hat is back. And it’s backward. Guys, you can keep looking like Kevin Federline.
Adolescence really is the time to try things with your facial hair, isn’t it? You figure out what works on you, what doesn’t. Like, for example, that chinstrap.
Same goes for your hair, I suppose—take this one teensy Pauly D-a-like with an almost identical haircut. People are actually lining up to take pictures with this guy during the show. I felt that would be lowest-common-denominator moment.
Ladies: sequinned tanks and pleather leggings are the look of the day. All over-the-shoulders tops, mini skirts. Everything is TIGHT. (Low self-esteem does not exist here.) And you know what: I support that wedgie if it makes you feel good about yourself. But, ew, I despise rich white girls with Chanel and Louis bags jumping up and down to Jay Z’s “99 Problems.” (Were you even born yet?)
The girl-on-girl dancing, however, has gotten pretty intense. One chick is just standing there with her finger in her mouth looking down at her other friend as she bum rushes the hell out of her pelvis. I mean, is this supposed to be sexy? And, surprisingly, there are very few Snooki-a-likes, and very few tans. (Quick, someone get me self-tanner sales in Canada, stat.)
Watching a way-young girl walk in baby’s first heels is like watching Bambi take those first steps all over again.
But I can’t be too hard on these kids; that would be too easy. (When I used to hit up Palazzo nightclub as a 14-year-old, I was just as much of a monstrosity. Probably still am.) When they get their first table at Brassii, then that shit is open season. For now, let’s consider this friendly teasing. Oh, youth!
Pauly D isn’t even 12 minutes late for his set, and the kids are pulling rank, chanting: “Pauly D! Pauly D! Pauly D!” (Yeah, the opener is pretty balls.) At 10:43 p.m., the bro-of-the-hour appears, with hair that could cut glass and biceps that just won’t quit. There are bedazzled Italian-flag headphones to match the laptop, I just noticed.
“Say, ‘ah yeah!’” (Oh, hearing that accent makes me weak in the knees.)
“Ah yeah!” We nod along.
There are a surprising number of older dudes lurking in the crowd; we’re talking grey hair and ’80s leather jackets. It’s unsettling with all these half-naked tweens running around. Oh wait—these are totally some of those tweens’ dads/ride home. (Expect for the mismatched pair kissing—ah, the reality of the internet-dating age continues to get even creepier.) Now I can’t stop spotting more of those unsettling age differences between couples. Not judging, but it is a little weird when your boyfriend has crow’s feet and you still have baby fat. (I’ve been there, too.)
I don’t get Pauly D. He doesn’t exactly have a strong musical legacy. He’s released one single (last year), ranked number one “Worst Song Ever” by AOL, and signed a record deal in 2011… with G-Unit Records. If everyone can all bitch about Lana Del Rey “not being seasoned enough” or appearing like “a twelve-year-old girl singing in her bedroom,” then they should subject themselves to watching Pauly D put on a show that rests on nothing more than reality TV, um, pedigree. Sure, he may have opened for Britney Spears on her recent Femme Fatale tour, but obviously the stint didn’t help his stage presence. (How could it, though, when those audiences were there to see Queen Lifeless herself?) He’s just staring at a laptop screen; you can barely see his mug face-on. It’s my right to call bullshit on this, too—just watch that Deadmau5 video again, okay?
The problem is that you can go hear this Top 40 stuff anywhere. Pauly D doesn’t produce much of his own music, nor does he collaborate or produce decent mixes any self-respecting music lover would play, or that even I would like to hear. Though he puts in a generous two-hour set, the repertoire consists of the same stuff over and over, and rudimentary mash-ups even I could make on GarageBand. The “setlist” could have easily been one giant mix called: “Let’s remember summer 2011 in music.” In the span of 30 minutes, we hear about three Rihanna songs,Kanye/Jay-Z and Drake. Oh, and Usher’s “Yeah.” (Geez, I wonder when the last time a DJ dusted off that one?) I will give him credit for a dope mix of Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close” and Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine”—until he stops it abruptly to hear his own voice: “Count of three, everybody fist pump!” (How does it make you feel knowing Pauly D travels the continent with “Love Like This” in his repertoire?) But, be shocked: The man plays a dubsteppp beat. Uh huh. And Madonna’s new song sounds better slowed down over a euro beat.
“I’m single and that’s a fact,” he tells us. Swoon, my dream man.
Indeed, this shit is a meat market: the hormones, the eyeliner, the cologne, the flesh. Two girls took a photo of themselves giving the middle finger. I asked them to send it to me so I could post it here. (No dice.) You’ve got little boys running around with ball caps that have “Toronto” stitched into one, and “I Heart Haters” on the other. There’s this dude wearing a plastic “ceramic” watch with faux-rose gold trim. Another with sunglasses on, baseball jacket, fitted jeans, ice-white kicks. Yup, these guys are in the 19-plus section and smell like a Parkdale dollar store. Boys are baby-faced, dripping in necklaces and dotted with gold earrings. I call this the “Bieber Effect”—and they’ve got the shags to match. The problem with all these boys who try to swag hard and walk big is that you wonder if their moms still block the internet porn and ask them to pick up their dirty socks. And the ones that actually come here with a girl just end up holding her purse while trying to retain the “tough guy” look. Oh, youth!
Now, it’s time for a game of: Count the Bump-Its. Three!
Ultimately, Electric Circus ’98 > Pauly D at Sound Academy > Electric Circus 2012. But this is basically Comfort Zone with a dress code, a light system, hair gel and high heels—and top 40 music.
You know what’s an Alanis-worthy lyric? “It’s like that really attractive guy/ Standing beside you/ Until you realize/ He’s spending half the night recording Pauly D’s set on his iPhone.”
I have always believed that shows are about the music and fan, that relationship between artist and believer that’s unbreakable. These kids have something other than homework to look forward to on a Wednesday night. I once skipped school for a radio meet-and-greet with Spice Girl Geri Halliwell—she was my Pauly D. None of his fans will probably read this, but they probably went to school this morning and talked about it incessantly. Others will bring it up anecdotally for x-number of years whenever an episode of Jersey Shore comes on. Me, I’m already forgetting the thing ever happened.