Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not a fan of “electronic” music. Maybe it’s because of my age group, maybe it’s because I’m not terrifically hip and therefore incapable of “getting it”, or maybe it’s because I simply require more from what I put in my ears than a banging beat, some retro synths and a buildup every 3-4 minutes to keep me on my toes. If that sounds too “get-of-my-lawn” for you then fine, but it’s really not that.
The purpose of dance music is to make people shake their ass, but that doesn’t often happen in the comfort of your own home or on your daily ride to work on the Metro. It happens, or is meant to happen, on the dance floor. Couple that with the simple fact that it really doesn’t take much to get people’s asses moving, and you can maybe see where I’m coming from. For me, dance/electronica is an art form that too often get’s dragged down the seventh circle of synthesized hell where dorm room/Garageband using stoners crank out repetitive rhythm after repetitive rhythm while they stare at the pretty lights bobbing in time to their “creations” and think “Whoa man. Crispy”
On the other hand though, there’s M83.
James Murphy has been quoted as saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, something along the lines that he switched from playing indie/punk rock in the late 90’s to playing dance/electronic music because you could get immediate feedback on how you were doing. If you’re doing it right, people are dancing. If you’re doing it wrong…well. Murphy carried that ethos through to create LCD Soundsytem, who were one of the most creative and vital bands of the past 20 years. Yes they played “dance” music and yes like everyone else with half a brain I f@#$ing loved that band because they succeeded by not just playing dance music but by being smart about it. By embedding familiar rock hooks and intelligent, meaningful lyrics into this so called dance music LCD Soundsystem elevated and legitimized the art form and brought it to the masses like never before. M83 seems to wholeheartedly subscribe to their way of doing things, and to bring the songs from
to life on the stage Anthony Gonazalaz has brought a 5 piece band out on the road with him, and more importantly, lasers. Lots and lots of lasers.
What M83 is achieving on stage right now is dance music done right. Instead of sounding twee and uninspired, those keyboard hits provide a beating heart to the songs flowing on top of them. Striking all kinds of rock star poses, the band played to the sold out crowd of The Black Cat as if they were playing to the sold out crowd of Madison Square Garden. Blanketing the club in a light fog and laser light (ROCK LASERS!*) the group transported the crowd to some futuristic dance club where it’s perfectly fine for Glen Frey sax solos to hang out with Daft Punk techno freakouts. Sure there were the familiar dance music tropes. The set was positively soaked with them. But instead of felling cliché, they felt earned the way the screams of a crowd after a completely raging guitar solo feel earned. It would seem that Gonzalez went and got some rock and roll all up in his dance, and believe me when I say his music is better for it.
So am I a M83 superfan now? No. Of course not. Until he somehow manages to capture the magic that he brought to The Black Cat Stage on record, I’ll still be turning his records off after about ten minutes, like I do almost every other electronica record I ever hear. What you can be damn sure of though is that I’ll be catching M83 on the road this year every time I get the chance, because at the end of the day what M83 is bringing to the table is the “rock show” writ large, and lucky for you he’s bringing it to your town soon enough, so check out the remaining tour dates below!
M83 making with the rock lasers at the Black Cat. Photos by Kevin Hill