NYC 10: Concerts

This month marks 10 years since we moved to New York City. I’m writing on a variety of topics to reflect on a decade in one of the best cities in the world. Read all the posts.

LCD Soundsystem

If my blog archives are to be trusted, within the first two weeks of being in NYC, I had found my way to my first concert (Paul Van Dyk at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square) and my first book event (Neal Stephenson at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square for the release of Quicksilver: Volume One). Both were free, letting me get in very close contact with two artists that I had a deep love for almost immediately after arriving in my new home.

As a first hit, that was one hell of a drug.

New York is constantly busy with events, so much so that there’s no possible way that you will ever attend all, let alone most, of the things you might be interested in. I tried, lacking any better judgement, to do them all for a couple of years, before growing too old/too tired/too annoyed to keep that up.

Concerts are particularly tough. Plenty of concerts start way too late: regardless of day of the week, main acts for rock shows tend to go on around 10 and DJ sets are lucky if they start by 2AM. NYC is dotted with venues with shitty sight lines, crowds are ill-mannered, expensive drinks, and bathrooms that are indescribably bad.

But every now and then, you get that one really really great show, and your faith is restored, at least for a little while. And being in the Media Capital Of The World, most every band you will ever want to see will come to town at some point.

With all that in mind, some high points and low points of concerts I’ve attended in NYC.

THE ABSOLUTE BEST SHOW I’VE EVER BEEN TO AND PROBABLY WILL EVER GO TO

LCD Soundsystem’s final show at MSG, easily. You can grab the documentary of the show easily enough, and it’s worth watching, but James Murphy’s drive to churn out three of the best dance (and I mean that in the actual-music-that-makes-you-want-to-dance sense, not the unn-tsst-brostep-or-generic-trance sense) albums of the 2000’s turned his band’s final show into something unforgettable. It was an almost painfully long set, emotional to be in the audience of, and one of those shows that was truly a “had to be there” experience.

THE SECOND BEST SHOW I’VE EVER BEEN TO AND THE FALLBACK SHOULD I EVER START HATING LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, WHICH WON’T HAPPEN BUT I NEEDED TO CONTEXTUALIZE THIS SOMEHOW

Daft Punk at the Cyclones Stadium on Coney Island. This was the heyday of the Alive tour, with the pyramid and the mashups and the blowing of minds. An outdoor show with perfect weather, with the set just hitting its peak as the sun went down, and a perfect light show – it was magical.

THE SHOW THAT MOST MADE MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD SELF HAPPY, AND THUS RUINED MY FUTURE ENJOYMENT OF THE BAND IN QUESTION

I have had three opportunities to see Nine Inch Nails play in NYC. The first, a fairly regular show at MSG in support of their 2000-era albums, was alright but perhaps a touch forgettable.

The second show came during the “retirement” tour, and as we crammed into Webster Hall in August of 2009, we were treated to the thing I would have most wanted when I first discovered Trent Reznor: a concert of The Downward Spiral, sequentially from Mr. Self Destruct all the way through to Hurt. It was beautiful, and perfect, and even as the band played stuff off the other albums to cover the second hour of the show, it was sort of set in my mind that when it came to the formative band of my angsty teenage years, it wasn’t going to get better than that.

The third opportunity is in a month or two. And it is an opportunity I’ve passed on, because after I’ve seen you on a retirement tour – especially one where you do wish fulfillment the likes of which that Webster Hall show managed – you’re off my desired ticket list. It’s not getting better than that.

BEST SHORT NOTICE SHOW

LCD Soundsystem again, this time for the show announced a day before it happened for Music Hall of Williamsburg. A tune up before the This Is Happening tour, where most of the new songs were played for the first time. Great small crowd, the band was in high spirits, and it was like a meeting of the LCD Fanclub, since you had to act really quick to have made it in.

WORST SHOW

Chemical Brothers, Hammerstein Ballroom. Half due to the guy drugged out of his mind who kept trying to squeeze in front of us when we were standing at the barricade, who ended up getting removed by security because he wouldn’t stop being a complete jackass.

But beyond him: such a shitty DJ set. Sure, the video display was kind of neat, but it was basically a “push play and then spent the night waving your arms in the air” sort of a night.