For a venue of its intimate size, U Street Music Hall tends to punch above its weight in terms of the reputation and calibre of the acts it attracts, particularly in electronic music. Some of that is a product of how connected its owner Will Eastman is in the industry – given the fact that he’s a DJ and producer with over two decades of experience – but it’s also due to the quality and thoughtfulness of their programming. It’s clear that U Hall’s booking team really cares about and enjoys music, and this excitement extends to the shows they put on. Never is this more apparent than in Blisspop Disco, one of their signature event series.
Since premiering over Labor Day 2018, Blisspop Disco has evolved from a multi-day mini festival into a regular dance party. The first edition featured Giorgio Moroder, Nancy Whang, and the Juan MacLean spread over a few evenings and a couple of venues. Although not quite at the same scale as the inaugural event, the lineup last Friday was stacked once again: LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy was the headliner, but LA-based duo Classixx and DC’s own Ozker have earned enough accolades to get people through the doors on their own accord.
Revelers poured into the U Hall basement on a warm and muggy January night and packed the floor early. It was a packed house from open to close on the first “real” weekend of the year, and though each act put their own spin on proceedings, they all share an appreciation for incredibly danceable disco grooves with plenty of personality. Classixx in particular played a set heavy in nu-disco, and it was a solid ninety minutes of bops that rattled the low end. The audience – comprised mainly of bookish thirty-somethings in expensive-looking sweaters (myself included) – didn’t necessarily have enough material to sing along to, but looked appreciative for a chance to shake off the week.
By the time James Murphy came on, people barely had room to dance, although that didn’t stop them from trying. He played for two hours and skewed more towards tribal music and funk than expected, although you’ll find no complaints from me. The DFA Records co-founder has a vast and deep knowledge of music and that was clearly on display, with a sequence of danceable deep cuts that showcased the range of stuff he listens to. Happily, I did recognize the final song of the night: “Otis” by the Durutti Column – a post-punk staple that ascends peaks and valleys on the back of Vini Reilly’s guitar licks. It was the perfect ending to a very fun and very sweaty night.