All words: Jonah K. O’Neill — All photos: Nick Balleza
In three relatively short hours, James Murphy, Sleigh Bells, and Hot Chip, sent me through the full gamut of human emotions. Here they are*, pegged to the three-act event in chronological order.
James Murphy DJ Set 1:
Confusion: What the hell is going on? Is James Murphy DJing? If so, where is his stage set up? Why are they advertising Gotye and 9:30 waterbottles while he is DJing? Why is the woman on the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sandwich advertisement so sultry? If not, why is the house DJ spinning so many DFA/ Rough Trade cuts? Why is it so loud if it’s just the house DJ? House DJ/ James Murphy/ Mystery Man is doing pretty well, but why is no one dancing? The pit looks like a freshly minted glacier.
Recognition: OK, after 20 minutes of bewilderment, one of the spinning spotlights happened to catch James Murphy on the decks. It is him. The house DJ isn’t spinning a Beats In Space set just to amp the crowd for a Beats in Space set. Murphy is working in some 70’s cuts, some Temptations, some Factory Floor. OK, I’m with it. I can get behind this.
Anger: Wait. They put James Murphy on with no announcement? In the back corner of stage left? With no lighting or video coverage? At 7:00pm when the sun is still out? This is the very epitome of bad planning. And just look at all these these Navajo-pattern’d shitbritches doing the stand-still. This is James Fucking Murphy we’re talking about here, people. The guy for whom this fine publication ran a public circle jerk just last week! The guy who regularly kills it on the decks. This must be the worst confluence of time, location, artist, venue, and crowd in the history of times, locations, artists, venues, and crowds.
Acceptance: Oh, that’s right. Music is better when you just let it happen and have fun. Weekend Express? Connan Mockasin? The 4/4 indisco DFA trademark? I can move to all of that.
Pain: From the moment Sleigh Bells first revvs the Boom-Boom Clap Engine, the audience is engulfed by sonic terror. The thunderous kicks and staccato claps of the drum machines set the rhythm of your heart. Your stomach is in your throat. Your ears hurt in such a way that the pain extends deep past your ear drums into your brain. The volume, the screech, and the pain are all part of the plan. There is a certain joy in collective suffering. A communal feeling of agony creates deep, primal bonds amongst the sardine-packed Pavillion floor. Sleigh Bells exceeds when they tap into the teenage id: everyone moves, jumps, writhes, shouts in unison. The maximalist ballast of the guitar and drum machine noise and thin, piercing wolf cry of Alexis Krauss mingle into one raging caterwaul as the 17-year old next to you sprouts his first chest hair. The world is ablaze. You think to yourself FUCK YOU T.S. ELIOT THIS IS HOW THE WORLD ENDS. WITH A BANG SO LOUD THE UNFORMED EARS OF PROTOZOAN LIFEFORMS ON OTHER PLANETS DEVELOP WITH A PERMANENT RINGING. The only color is red. The only fabric is black leather. You have an erection that you can neither explain nor quell. God is dead and this noise is what killed him.
Boredom: As it turns out, my mind can only handle the Sleigh Bells blast for about 1 song before I decide that I get it and I’m ready to move on to climates more suitable for human habitation. After the third Boom-Boom Clap-Boom, I’m mentally deciding between a $6 salted pretzel and a $10 basket of “chicken” fingers. Of course, my interest flared for the predictably excellent hits: “Crown on the Ground” was a glorious display of power-pop fireworks; “Treats” sent me to the high school pep rally I never had; “Tell Em” was – as always – a riot. But the newer material – while maintaining it’s punishing sonics – failed to capture my attention. “True Shred Guitar” seemed to go nowhere in two minutes. “Comeback Kid” – which, admittedly got the pit hyped, sounded like a whitehot wave of noise in the loud parts and the a wavering whimper in the soft parts. My opinion aside, I feel comfortable reporting that most of the crowd thoroughly enjoyed the set. Several young gentlemen in the first rows had their first sexual experience, and many audience members relished the opportunity to relive Headbanger’s Ball. But for me, the set felt too same-y, and the parts that didn’t seem same-y seemed to demonstrate the band’s lack of range outside their demented-cheerleader comfort zone.
James Murphy DJ Set 2:
Relief: After the puzzling SNAFU of Murphy’s first DJ set and the ear-assault of the Sleigh Bells set, I was primed and ready to have a good time. As it so happened, some space opened up on the floor and several of my fellow partygoers were happy to indulge. We danced as Murphy turned out about 30 minutes of choice-cut material, climaxing with an extended cut of Todd Terje’s Inspector Norse. By the time Hot Chip’s stage was set up, my dancefloor compatriots and I were covered in sweat and grinning like fools.
Elation: Holy shit Hot Chip. From the moment these guys took the stage, they had the audience in a state of palpable glee. Starting with an exceptional version of “…And I was a Boy from School,” Hot Chip had their foot firmly on the accelerator and a steady grip on the wheel. The band exudes professionalism and confidence in their medium. For a band that works in drum machines, two live drummers, and more midi-synced synths than can be counted on two hands, Hot Chip were incredibly tight. In a too-short set, they tore through about half of their excellent new record and five or six songs from previous records including most of the singles: “Over and over” (described as “a modest hit back in the year 2006”), “Ready for the Floor,” “One Life Stand,” and “I Feel Better” pulsed with live energy and feeling. The stand out track from the new record, “Flutes” and somewhat reformatted to maximize the dance floor appeal.
Jealousy: Actually, these guys are assholes. What business do they – seven guys who look like they were turned down as extras on the Big Bang Theory – have putting on a show that feels so alive, so together, so bouyant? At best – with their looks – each of these guys should be drumming for the latest version of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or something. This is manifestly unfair. Knocking out a synthed-out cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” before closing with a fist-pumping display of live band firepower in an extended take on “Hold On”? I hate this band.
*Because I know how much you like non-traditional concert reviews.
- Sleigh Bells