2:46 pm Jan. 17, 2012
A respectable but by no means teeming crowd made its way down into the tiny, well-appointed Electric Room deep below West 16th Street last night to hear James Murphy and Pat Mahoney, one of the other crucial creative members of the legendary Brooklyn dance-punk band LCD Soundsystem.
The series of singles from acts like The Rapture, The Juan MacLean, and Free Energy Murphy has produced at his label, DFA Records, and the impossibly danceable and intellectually defensible music he made with LCD Soundsystem, whose final shows filled Madison Square Garden and Terminal 5 for several consecutive nights last April, give Murphy an aura of inevitability at New York music events.
Murphy might have been more inevitable at The Electric Room than at most places: His comrade Mahoney D.J.s here every week. But Murphy dropped in last night for a semi-secret set, announced on his own website, Facebook, and Twitter, but not forwarded much more widely than that. So this appearance was special.
Nick, 25, from Brooklyn, who wouldn't give me his last name, was sitting with a few friends on one of the couches, watching Murphy. He had been in the crowd for last year’s final LCD Soundsystem show at Madison Square Garden. Last night’s performance was “less of an event,” he said, “but it’s cool because it’s more intimate. He’s right there, which is kind of crazy. Last time I saw him, I was in a room with thousands and thousands of people.”
Dane, a 31-year-old ex-Minnesotan and current Brooklynite in a bold black-and-white checked shirt and impressively thick, tightly cropped beard, had also seen Murphy’s band before, and was enjoying the access his new address gave him. “I texted my one best friend in Minneapolis, and he texted his two friends saying ‘AAARRGG, I can’t believe this is happening!’ He hated us when we moved to New York, but now there are all these events we get to go to,” he said.
The room itself is behind a small black door in the bottom of a parking garage. Fashionably dressed guests made their way down the down the garage’s driveway, the walls of which are painted with street-art-style skeletons and exploding sports cars, across a narrow strip of black carpet, past the nylon TensaBarriers (who that matters actually uses velvet ropes anymore?), and found themselves in an opulent room with glowing Edison bulb chandeliers, overstuffed couches, and vaguely-graffiti-style paintings of half-naked women kissing each other. It's impressive; a certain social subset's idea of exclusivity, intrigue, and opulence.
But the room is also connected by a smooth white stairway to the airy, warm-wood-paneled lobby of Chelsea’s Hotel Dream, where a single room will run you about $400 a night. Later in the evening, men with shaved heads and zip-front fleeces and the girls they were trying to impress started filtering in via this less secretive and less challenging route, giving the crowd a decidedly dual profile.
Murphy and Mahoney spent the night playing pleasantly danceable if unrecognizable electro tracks, smiling and nodding to each other and to the crowd, even at one point hugging a group of people who’d come to celebrate a birthday. There’s something vaguely Lynchian about Murphy as he ages. It’s not just the shock of tall grey hair shooting out from underneath his headphones; more his general air of an aging provocateur enjoying his notoriety.
As the clock wound past midnight, the crowd began to relax. Groups of friends that had been insular all night opened up, and took in new groups of strangers. And, on the platform above them, Murphy and Mahoney nodded approvingly as people gradually joined the one girl with a shiny scarf tied around her waist, who'd been dancing by herself all night, until almost the entire room was moving.
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