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Ten Things I Learned at Saturday’s LCD Soundsystem Show

April 4, 2011

 

A shot from my phone from section 224

Balloons fell during the coda to "New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down"

(This is not really a review or a recap of Saturday’s show, as there are plenty of people who did a far better job. Instead, this is a somewhat lazy list of mildly connected ideas and (personal) details about a trip I didn’t know I would be taking when I woke up this past Saturday).

1. The best kept secret about Ticketmaster is that tickets sometimes show up on the day of the event.

This is now the second time I was able to get tickets for a sold out show the morning of the show. In this case, there were a few single tickets available Saturday morning (there were not pairs of tickets because I looked for those too). I had to make a (relatively) spur of the moment decision to decide whether or not to buy a ticket, rush to catch a Metro North train, and spend most of the trek by myself. I dug out a pair of headphones for the train and bought the ticket. I’m not saying to wait until the morning of a concert, but rather not to completely give up hope.

2. Zesty Salsa Tortilla Combos are delicious.

After a very late lunch, this and a Diet Dr. Pepper were my train ride dinner. I’m not proud of this, but I arrived at Grand Central Station at 7:40 and had just enough time to walk fast to the arena, print my ticket from the Will Call machine in the lobby (which I’ve done for Amtrak but not Ticketmaster – it was much quicker than going to a human) and get on the escalator up to the mezzanine level by 8:00.

3. Liquid Liquid is a percussionist’s dream.

I only recently got their Slip In and Out of Phenomoenon reissue, so I knew just enough to expect some tight grooves without knowing specific songs. They had a drummer, a marimba player, a multi-percussionist, and a bass player (I think – they switched around a decent amount and may have incorporated other things at times). They played for about 35 minutes before bowing out, and I was disappointed that the webcast didn’t start until after their set.

4. This was a crowd that was psyched to be there.

Since I wasn’t planning on going to the show before Saturday morning, I had to make do with a black and white sweatshirt and jeans to fit most of James Murphy’s proposed “wear black and white” dress code. Many people fit the dress code, some in more extravagant ways (a pair of dudes dressed like the militant pandas from the “Drunk Girls” video comes to mind in particular, in addition to a lot of suits), but there were a number of people who seemed to be there because they were dragged there against their will. It’s a little frustrating sitting by yourself with a ticket barely obtained to see people more interested in the beer guy than the band, but for the most part everyone in my section came through by 9:00 by dancing, singing almost every song (not quite the deepest of cuts, but far more than I expected). Which leads into the next discovery:

5. There were a lot more kids than I expected.

I imagined seeing a lot of people my age, plus or minus a decade (so roughly from college age to James Murphy’s age), but in my section alone there were a few teens/pre-teens, including a father-son pair next to me and a couple jubilant teenagers behind me. As excited as I was personally, I could tell this was a big deal to the kid who immediately wore his LCD t-shirt next to me, and the ones who decked themselves out in merch table pins behind me. I was happy for them that they could see a band they liked before it was no more, as most of the bands I liked at their age were either gone or might as well be because they never played Connecticut.

6. They knew how to put on a show.

The only thing I saw about the Terminal 5 shows earlier this week was that the band was playing three sets, with the middle being “dance heavy” and featuring the special guest. This was the case, as Reggie Watts came out to add vocals to part of the 45:33 suite (performed almost in its entirety, with an interlude for “Sound of Silver”). In addition to the expected arena touches (lights, video screens), they included a choir somewhat lofted in the 100 level seats behind the stage and brought out a half dozen horns a few different times. They also had a “remote piece” set up in the 200 level behind the upper right corner of the stage where the guy from (or known as?) Shit Robot performed part of 45:33 from what looked like a mini space ship (and another guy, who I’m told was DFA friend Juan MacLean, appeared next to him in some kind of diamond alien spacecraft that made me think of Superman II, a movie I’m not 100% sure I’ve actually seen. Even the setbreaks were entertaining, with the first featuring a “man on the street” bit that included Aziz Ansari “scalping” his tickets, and a rapid-paced photo montage during the second. Even if these brief set breaks were welcome moments to sit and rest, the show continued for nearly four hours. (Which leads to the next realization…)

7. LCD Soundsystem has some serious jams.

Even if the middle hour was essentially one long piece, the setlist was packed with my favorite songs (including their cover of Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” – as song I knew they covered but never expected to hear), forgotten favorites (how dare I forget about “Tribulations!”), and new favorites (I left with “You Wanted a Hit” and “Home” from the new record on my brain a few days later). Perhaps more amazingly, there were songs left on the table, including “Beat Connection” (which maybe I’m overestimating its status, as it was a b-side) and “Pow Pow” (which shocked me, as a lot of people really love it). That being said, there are no complaints from me; the audience greeted just about every song with excitement, and it seemed like someone around me freaked out for nearly every song.

8. Given the right circumstances, I will “dance” a little bit.

I took a “beggars can’t be choosers” attitude toward this show and was happy to be in the building at all. That said, my seat in the 200 level (if it was a Knicks game, I was in center court) provided a great 45 degree view of the stage and an overview of the audience. If I was down on the floor level, I’m certain I would have been swept up in the dancing, pogoing, and shouting. That said, I made the most of my cubic foot of space in front of my seat (say what you will about the Garden, but those seats are not made for stand-up events) and bounced back and forth for just about the entire set. My calves certainly felt it when I ended up on my friend Ryan’s couch at the end of the night (thank you again, Ryan, for letting me crash last minute.

9. Spending most of this trip “alone” left a lot of time to think.

If tickets went the way I wanted months ago, I would have had company for the show (and probably would have made a day of it). So I spent a lot of the trip – two train rides, time walking through Manhattan, etc. – on my own. It was plenty of time to think not only about the band, but also about the spontaneity of the trip. There will come a time where I can’t drop everything, jump on a train, and catch something extraordinary, but for now I’m very lucky that the universe seemed to align.

10. This isn’t the last we’ll hear from James Murphy.

It was hard to tell (if you watched the webcast, maybe you have a better idea), but I’m pretty sure that Murphy started crying somewhere between the end of “Someone Great” and the first third of “Losing My Edge,” and it made total sense. As Nitsuh Abebe wrote for New York magazine last week, Murphy is a music lifer, and he hasn’t been shy about saying that this is more about “what’s next” than “never again.” Even if this is the last time Murphy sings these songs, I wouldn’t be surprised if a decade from now he has another four hours of material this good.

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