May 3, 2012
Better Than: Dancing Yrself Clean.
There are two James Murphys: the one who likes to make you think and the one who likes to make you dance. During Murphy's DJ set at MOCA Geffen, part of the Mike-D curated “Transmission: AV Club” series, the thinking part was strictly optional. It was at times hard to believe that all of this booty-shaking was taking place at the behest of the same man who wrote the soul-crushingly sad song “When Someone Great Is Gone,” but then again, Murphy has always exploited the tension between the shoegaze, the mosh pit, and the dance floor.
DJ Harvey opened the show, kicking off with a funky sound reminiscent of an electronic remix of the Car Wash soundtrack: '70s funky meets house. Avoiding the derivative sample placement tactic that can feel like Nick-at-Night reruns, it was part Knight Rider, part disco horn section, and underpinned by a crowd-bouncing bass that moved the event away from feeling like a gallery opening toward feeling like a proper dance party.
Harvey — who resembles Jeffrey Lebowski, but slightly groovier – transitions beats slowly and gradually,avoiding the sonic overload that can come with a more frantic DJing style. He's not afraid to let a rhythm soak in for a good long time.
The determined-to-dance contingency up near the front thickened considerably when Murphy took the stage. Murphy opened his set with a sample of Donna Summer's “I Feel Love,” drawing good will from the LCD-Soundsystem-worshipping base. Other crowd-pleasing highlights included samples of Chicago's “I'm A Man,” and the Temptations “Get Ready, Here I Come.”
That Temptations tune provided the evening's crescendo, and from there Murphy took the crowd on a gentle downhill slide, considering MOCA shows have to end at 10:00 p.m. We all left wanting more.
The Crowd: MOCA x Murphy x Free Show = Hipsters cubed.
Critical Bias:I'm the same age as Murphy, so I feverishly try to sponge off of his cool.
Random notebook dump: Sing it: Mur-PHY is playing at mo-CA, mo-CA!