James Murphy | 9:30 Club | Mar. 27, 2015
Resulting from these ripples on the fringe of mainstream culture, Murphy’s career as a DJ has seen a resurgence in the past few years and has seen Murphy come full-circle. His sets have become a temple of sorts – a safe haven – acting as an opportunity to replenish attendees’ souls in a similar fashion to how Murphy’s live act did: by appreciating good music and making memories with good people.
His most recent stop in D.C., this past Friday at the 9:30 Club, was a testament to this reputation, as a DJ and tastemaker, featuring an inspired opening set by local veteran DJ and Blisspop resident Ozker, over 3 hours of deep cuts, a sea of squirming bodies drenched in sweat and filled with starry eyes, and hazy lights, providing minor glimpses into a bygone period of going out and being young and stupid. However, this is no shock to anyone privy to Murphy’s career: he’s built much of his public image by being dominated by influences ranging from Bowie, Eno, Byrne, disco greats like Donna Summer, and members of the 80’s new wave such as New Order or the Human League. And for that, his choices as a curator are eclectic, fresh, and allows audiences to give themselves up to the music (some of which are discovering these older records for the first time). But what really ties his parties together are the people, the majority of whom happen to be on a similar wavelength with Murphy both in mind and soul. These are the types who could give two shits about getting the perfect snapshot for their Instagram feed because they’re primarily there to appreciate the art of music, going out, and the love of sharing that appreciation with others thanks to the magic of experiencing things in the moment.
This is why the crowd bursts into euphoria when James Murphy drops tracks like the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place” and Fern Kinney’s “Love Me Tonight.” Or why there was practically an eruption into anarchy as he played out Rare Earth’s mind-melting drum solo in “Get Ready.” It’s because Murphy, after years of spinning records and making music, is a master of manipulating the crowd even if he is in a makeshift booth hidden from sight in the wings of the club. He understands that music is universal. That it’s in the very fiber of our being: it allows us to feel; to love; to understand the idea of ‘home.’
It’s this emotional element that made LCD Soundsystem so important, truthful, and real to so many people. And it’s important to acknowledge this imprint: for a good number of those in attendance on March 27, Murphy’s parties – like the one thrown at the 9:30 Club – are an opportunity to try reliving the moments that made the idea of LCD so tangible to them. For others, it’s the chance to see what it’s like to be one of the few people who can scream, “I was there,” like Murphy does in LCD Soundsystem’s self-aware debut 12″ Losing My Edge. But Murphy gets it. He, too, is a member of the pack. The misfits. The weirdos. The romantics. It’s a quality that has made his DJ sets so honest and sublime and, by extension, his own music so authentic and approachable to the uninitiated. The experience you get is one that reaches past borders like age, creed, or artifice.
Ultimately, his goal is to get you to feel something whether it’s by playing Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” into the early hours of the morning or by exposing newcomers to the powerful vocals at the beginning of Montana Sextet’s “Who Needs Enemies.” It’s about inviting you to leave your baggage at the door to be a part of something inclusive and beautiful. To feel like you’re at the top of the world. And as the night winds down and the music begins to reverberate around the dancehall, you’re one of the last ones left with friends by your side and Murphy humbly turns on his microphone to thank you because, let’s face it, not everyone gets the opportunity to play other people’s music and become famous for it, you momentarily see the beauty in what’s around you.
Going to see James Murphy spin is about going out to dance yourself clean which, perhaps, is the best kind of legacy – and purest experience at a dance venue – one could ever hope for. This is what dreams are made of.