Best Concert Ever: LCD Soundsystem at Lollapalooza

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 - 1:32pm


DFA Records


Fandom is a tough concept to make concrete. The extent to which we, as spectators, love certain forms of entertainment cannot be definitively graded, and while it might be more important to just absorb the entertainment rather than assess our appreciation for it, how genuinely we experience things does matter. Celebrities Aziz Ansari and Donald Glover (aka “Childish Gambino”), for example, seemed to be LCD Soundsystem fans, completely losing their shit in various clips of “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” which documented the band’s (then) farewell concert in 2011 at Madison Square Garden. As did the “crying boy,” a boy who was shown legitimately bawling for the duration of that same show.

Levels of fandom are relevant here, because after an incredibly draining day, we were in a sea of diehards for LCD’s headlining set July 31 at Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park. This is important, not as much because the crowd of mostly twenty-somethings around us were more “sophisticated” or “mature,” but because the teens rolling face were finally, and appropriately, confined to the suburban high school enclave that is the adjacent Perry’s stage.

This? This was a set for the fans, and on that festival-closing night, fandom manifested itself as total, complete and unadulterated joy. James Murphy, Nancy Whang and the rest of the gang proved they have a special way of causing this. Maybe it’s the distinct sound, or just the memories we have associated with this sound. They disbanded in 2011 and, while we all thought that was the end, it wasn’t; it was July 2016, and we were able to experience their reunion tour and hear this sound once more.

What started off as a roll call of hits — “Us V Them,” “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “I Can Change” supplied the set with tons of early momentum — gave way to the organized chaos of “Tribulations” and “Movement.” The band sounded good, but more important, they had us locked in. Bodies jumping up and down, swaying back and forth; cultish, in the best type of way.

Interspersed in the madness were sincerely earnest words from Murphy, snippets like “thank you guys for being very sweet to us … you never know, you could just hate us and be here just to throw things, but thank you for hanging out and listening.” But the privilege was all ours. After all, it would be foolish not to feel privileged to see this act, an act that had once been thought of as extinct. Beyond that, it was necessary to appreciate the sheer perfection of the set. Murphy often looks tense on stage, maybe even pained. It seems to come out of severely perfectionist tendencies. It’s not easy to synchronize a conglomerate of music machinery into harmonious poetry.  

Consequently, raw emotions hit, and the waterworks peaked during “Home.” The feeling of truly being back home, of remembering the rough nights — albeit with the right people — got to me: “And after rolling on the floor / And thankfully, a few make sure that you get home / And you stay home / And you better.” The song, off of This Is Happening (2010), unlocked a bundle of memories and future uncertainties, and such an anxiety-inducing package hit hard.

The unique thing about LCD Soundsystem’s music, in fact, is just how emotionally exhausting it is. In nearly every song, there’s an especially methodical intro, a prodding hook and a meticulously plotted out comedown. And so, we respond as such: where is it, what is it, where is it, oh wow, oh my gosh, wow, well OK that was cool, wow. Repeat. Each song is grounded in pure catharsis. So, in the span of one Lollapalooza set, it’s like being thrown on 14 ultra-sentimental loops, for 90 consecutive minutes, surrounded by equally overwhelmed people.

A lot of the audience, including me, were with our friends that night, the same friends with whom we have been listening to LCD for years: the awkward years, the pressure-filled years, the transitional years. LCD had carried us through it all. This aforementioned catharsis proved to be overpowering. By the time the first notes of “All My Friends” rang out — urgent, but distinct, notes — we were all sobbing. “Where are your friends tonight?” Our friends were there, and other peoples’ friends were there. James Murphy had created, for one night, friends everywhere. That night, we were all crying boy.