Last night (or my yesterday afternoon — mind you I sometimes lose track of where I am) LCD Soundsystem played a gig with Hot Chip in Sydney. When I first heard of this bill a couple of months ago I briefly regretted coming to UAE early this year. (And also fleetingly hoped they’d swing through Dubai.)
A few of my Aussie friends were there. One wrote, “I won’t lie to you Jim, it was amazing.” Thanks. Turns out it was a full moon too.
I’ve seen Hot Chip twice before in New York. They were fantastic, especially the first gig at Webster Hall in 2007 in support of The Warning, their best album. Sure they can be silly but with big tunes like “And I Was a Boy from School” and “Over and Over” they really whipped the crowd into shape on the dancefloor. None of that standing around nodding and sipping your cup of beer like at most indie shows. There you could see the hope of a real dance/rock fusion fulfilled. And it came wearing geeky coveralls.
I’ve never seen LCD, but I’ve heard plenty of good things. I can only imagine. Actually, I can imagine, and I also can watch videos online. I first saw this one some time ago, but I came back to it yesterday thinking of that gig in Sydney. It’s an amateur job recorded at the Tripod in Dublin in ’07.
Clips like this are what Youtube is all about. There’s no expectations; you can just glean as much value as you like. This one’s got a lot working considering how poor the quality is. It’s so shaky you can hardly see anything, but you can see just enough. You can see the way one of the guys jumps up to the beat he just laid down, the way he runs his hands through his messy hair. His blurry form seems completely psyched about the music.
The audio is pretty bad, but somehow sounds great anyway. I love the little keyboard stabs before the tune starts, the raw sound of the synth, a machine clearing its throat before singing. The way the bass thumps and overwhelms the little mic of the videocam, it’s strangely perfect, it somehow communicates how banging the sound must have been in a way you couldn’t get from a higher-fidelity recording.
Best of all is the crowd. You’ve got to expect amazing crowd energy in Dublin anyway I suppose. When the familiar humming sinuous synth line fades up, they’re already yelling with such unforced excitement, their voices rising with the sound mix. Then the beat kicks in and they’re spontaneously chanting the bassline. No words, no sense, just joyfully chanting “Dah dah dum, dah dah dum dum, dum,” at the top of their lungs along with that fuzzy electric disco bassline.
Or maybe it’s not chanting I’m hearing, but some trick of the distortion. Maybe I just want to hear hundreds of people chanting and going nuts to this tune because that’s how it makes me feel. This video is so minimal it’s just a set of data: tones and rhythms crunched into a limited spectrum; raw darkness with occasional flashing shapes and bobbing lights to suggest the camera was being knocked about by people dancing. Listening to it I felt like dancing in my hotel room.
James Murphy’s vocals are mostly lost in the haze of bad sound, can’t make out the meaning; but the infectious singalong more than makes up for it and the emotion rings through. Would an Irish crowd be predisposed to reach out to the awkward soul of a brother named Murphy from across the Atlantic?
But anyway this anthem is far more universal than that. I wish that we could talk about it. Late last night (already morning by then in Australia) I sat by myself and drank a Hoegaarden in our hotel’s beer garden under the Arabian full moon with its distorted beauty and heartbreak on my mind. We’re safe for the moment.