Words By: JEB Gavin
Photos by: Lauren Bulbin
Despite prevailing public opinion, there is no reason to apologize for partying. Rather, any sufficient or proper partying requires no apology, and anyone claiming otherwise is doing it wrong. I only bring this up because when I walked into the 9:30 Club this past Friday night to see the Dance Party, one of the openers was teasing the refrain from “Party Rock Anthem.” I retreated to the basement to regroup and drink.
I managed to catch only one of the three openers before the Dance Party took the stage at 11:20, and tore through an unencumbered and fun set like the best kind of party soundtrack. The music was akin to a more polished J. Roddy Walston and the Business, or a clean-shaven Black Crowes having a good night. The lead singer shimmied like Axl and tossed his hair like Robert Plant. The bassist and guitarist took to climbing the amps and playing back to back. Somewhere towards the back end of the set, they managed to pull off a completely earnest cover of INXS’s “New Sensation,” to which the crowd responded, as they had the entire performance, by dancing. Before the Dance Party, well, it didn’t seem like anyone was dancing.
All the things the Dance Party did properly stood in stark contrast to the opener I watched. Both played a sort of innocuous, danceable power pop, but the Dance Party came out on stage with moves cribbed from watching live concert videos on MTV between 1982 and 1991, whereas the opener copped their moves from the last 20 seconds of a Sum41 video, unaware of the irony. The Dance Party busted out toe-tapping, power pop rock with grit and panache; the opening act played a sort of dull, soulless, keyboard-tinged pop punk. The Dance Party was there to ensure everyone was having a good time, while the opener just looked like they entertained themselves.
I would like to believe there is no deeper meaning to a good night out listening to music. But distinct differences between these two otherwise similar sets reveal the essence of performing live music. Beyond the aesthetic nature of music itself, performing music live is about connecting directly with the audience, winning them to your side, and spending some time enjoying music together, no matter the audience, performer, or the music being played. Without some sentiment behind it, there is no way for a band to connect with the audience. Instead you have guys on stage preening, equally likely to get laid if they were selling aluminum siding, or playing pickup soccer matches as they would be playing music. The Dance Party seems to understand the importance of playing a show, of connecting emotionally with an audience through music, even if that emotion is, “we’ve got nothing better to do than party tonight.”