Sounding Board

At The Pitchfork Festival, LCD Soundsystem Transcend Through Déjà Vu

There’s the reunion show, and then there’s the déjà vu show. Seven years ago, LCD Soundsystem headlined the Pitchfork Music Festival, playing the same stage, in the same timeslot, that they played last night. Last night’s 14-song setlist included the recent singles “American Dream” and “Call The Police,” but it also had seven of the same songs that they’d played the first time around. In the seven years between those two shows, the band didn’t change its approach one iota. They still played in a twitchily merciless robot groove. The same people were in the band, playing the same things. James Murphy made the same sort of halting, awkward stage patter, muttering about a bad back and introducing his band members over and over. For all I know, he wore the same shirt as he wore seven years ago. So why did last night’s set feel like so much more?

The LCD Soundsystem of 2017 not have changed since 2010 — like, at all — but the world sure has. When LCD played in 2010, they shared headlining duties with scratchy, elliptical indie rock OGs Modest Mouse and Pavement; they were the new jacks on the bill. This year, they’re holding down that top spot with a Tribe Called Quest and Solange. LCD are not really a rock band, but they’re the only headliners this year who are even kind of a rock band. History has continued its inexorable march forward, and Murphy had to change the line about the mild billionaire mayor on “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” to past tense even though, rest assured, New York is still bringing a lot of motherfuckers down in a lot of the same ways. The recent rock-revival oral history Meet Me In The Bathroom effectively painted Murphy as both a control-freak genius mastermind and kind of an asshole. (He’s got a great line in that book about playing festivals with bands like Bloc Party — bands who were always really nice to him — and just wanting to blow them off the stage. He sure as hell blew the Dirty Projectors off the stage last night.) People are now nostalgic for LCD’s already-nostalgic version of New York. And, most importantly, those old LCD jams have had time to marinate. They are now a whole lot of people’s favorite songs.

What made LCD Soundsystem’s headlining set last night spectacular — and it really was spectacular — wasn’t so much the band itself. They sounded amazing, but in the exact same way that they’ve always sounded amazing. Instead, what put it over the top was the crowd, who was very much there for the whole thing. It’s not nostalgia, I don’t think, so much as familiarity; we’ve had time to absorb those songs into our lives, to memorize their tics and pivots and climaxes. Of all the times I saw LCD back in their first iteration — and I saw them a bunch of times — I don’t remember anyone freaking out for the beginning of “Tribulations.” But when the band launched into “Tribulations” last night, it hit like a bomb; people went off. If the band has grown at all as a live act, it’s because they’ve gotten better at putting together a setlist, at knowing how crowds will react to every old banger. They know which songs are their best ones, and they’re not playing relative whiffs like “Drunk Girls” anymore. Last night’s set pushed forward to one glorious climactic moment, and that moment delivered.

It’s hard to say how it happened, other than maybe the song just being that great, but “All My Friends” is basically “Wonderwall” now. It’s reached generational-anthem status. It’s become a song that reminds people not of the group singing it but of moments and people and places in their own lives. The band closed last night’s set with the song, which was absolutely the right call. They didn’t come back for an encore after that because why would they? How could they top it? Instead, they just surfed the moment. By the time they reached that song’s raging finale, the endlessly sad and happy and life-affirming “Where are your friends tonight?” finale, people weren’t really even looking at the band anymore. They were looking at their friends, at strangers, at the whole beautiful scene around them, and they were howling those words at the top of their lungs. In that moment, the members of LCD Soundsystem themselves became obsolete. They were there to conduct that moment, to act as channels for the drunken memories of thousands of people in a park in Chicago. And that’s the moment that LCD Soundsystem transcended.