I won’t lie. I didn’t secure an invitation to last night’s LCD Soundsystem show at the Raleigh Hotel. Didn’t even know how to go about wheedling my way past the velvet rope. My plan was to go to the Art Loves Music Metric concert on the 22nd Street Beach, then to mosey over to the Raleigh, at which point I hoped luck or sympathy (the bouncer’s) would guide me into the presence of James Murphy and the gang blasting their glorious music into the cool, salty air.
The Metric show ended shortly after 11. The Canadian New Wave act has a decent sound (Twitter tells me they got their first Grammy nomination last night), but the show could not live up to my previous music experience at the same spot — Iggy Pop’s 2007 Art Basel performance, which in my opinion forever hallowed the sand at 22nd Street. Iggy Pop may be an unfair benchmark by which to judge the Toronto-based quartet, but I couldn’t help it. The show was so good the city should erect a statue of Iggy’s taut, ashen body on the spot, and I’m confident anyone who was there would join the petition.
After the Metric show, we walked the four blocks to the Raleigh along the shore. I’d heard competing rumors about the invite-only set and didn’t know whether Murphy was playing alone or spinning or whether the whole band was taking the stage.
But when we got within earshot, it was obvious the full Soundsystem was rocking the Raleigh. There was a small crowd of the uninvited along the boardwalk listening to the music creep through the tree line and over the fence. A few people stood on their toes to try to get a peek at the scene. I approached a side entrance in the hotel’s northern fence and tried to sneak in as a member of the white-clad catering staff pushed a service station into the alleyway. No luck. A young Russian in black uniform pulled the walkie-talkie away from his mouth to tell me the show was private. “I know,” I said. “That’s why I’m trying to sneak in.” He did not appreciate the logic.
I paced in the alley. The band played on, and each successive beat felt like a grain of sand falling into the bottom of an hourglass. Had to get in. Time was running out. A few feet away, a couple of dudes were hoisting their buddy over the fence. My friend and I looked at each other, sized up the fence, and went for it. The ground on the other side was uneven, and as we made our way through the trees I expected to get tackled by security at any moment. But it didn’t happen, and we merged unnoticed into the sea of bright teeth.
The space in front of the stage was, for no good reason, crowded with tables. This made it difficult to dance to one of the most danceable indie bands of our generation. But we managed. When LCD plays “All My Friends” in front of the Atlantic Ocean, you find room to dance.
The band was tight and played with energy, but it was pretty obvious that the gig was a paycheck. Murphy was flip in his between-song banter and seemed close to snapping when someone from the crowd jumped on stage and grabbed his mic. “This is my job,” he said, with thinly veiled contempt.
Still, the half of the set I saw was amazing. After “All My Friends”, the band played “You Wanted A Hit” off of 2010′s This Is Happening and then a song I didn’t recognize before closing with “Movement”, the hard-charging single off their 2004 self-titled debut album. While there was some crowd spunk near the edge of the stage, the majority of the attendees did little more than the obligatory head bob. Murphy’s lyrics heightened the contradiction of a nose-thumbing band like LCD Soundsystem playing an exclusive gig for a glitzy and only mildly interested audience at a swanky South Beach hotel.
“You wanted a hit,
But maybe we don’t do hits.
I try and try.
It ends up feeling kind of wrong.”
Curfew shut down the band at exactly midnight. Murphy feigned regret, but I’m pretty sure he was glad to get off the stage. The crowd seemed indifferent. A thirsty phalanx besieged the bar for $18 vodka within minutes. Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” played on the house speakers as I shuffled toward the exit, passing a glistening Grey Goose ice sculpture on my way. It was not a perfect night, but a damn good one. And at least I didn’t have to hop the fence on the way out.
Here’s all seven-plus glorious minutes of “All My Friends” — because I know you’ve got a craving.