DAFT PUNK: ONE MORE TIME AROUND (THE WORLD?)
THURSDAY, AUGUST 23, 2007
We knew the Daft Punks Coney Island show a few weeks back would be memorable. What we didnt expect was a story quite like this. So here it is
a sprawling, narrative exploit detailing everything you might have missed. From The Rapture to bodily ruptures, this story aint no tall tail
just the story of Baeble contributor Eric Silver and the NYC concert of the summer.
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I should have been able to see the signs from the very beginning that the Daft Punk show was going to be a special affair. The night before tickets went on sale, I had drunkenly done wind-sprints on the flatbed of a parked 18-wheeler in my work clothes, only to dive off when the driver, who had been sleeping in the cab of the truck, leaned out the window and yelled at me, using a few expletives to get the urgency of his request across. The next morning I woke up in all my clothes on a couch, not knowing where I was for a few seconds, but immediately remembering that tickets for the Daft Punk/The Rapture show in Coney Island were going on sale in two minutes. I lunged for a laptop and refreshed the page until I had a chance to buy tickets, of which I bought the maximum, four. Sure, I was only positive about one friend who would actually go with me, but how hard would it be to find someone who wanted to see this show?
Months later, my friend is telling me he has to work the night of the concert, and absolutely no one I know seems interested, or they already have tickets. For a few brief hours, Daft Punk tickets seemed about as popular as free colostomy bags. Then I learned that the concert was sold out, and people were charging obscene amounts for tickets on Stubhub.com. With only two days before the concert, I found someone to buy two of my tickets at twice the face value, so Daft Punk plus drinks was pretty much on the house.
I arrived at Coney Island just about twenty minutes after the doors opened and went to the parking lot to find the guy who bought my tickets. The sidewalk outside Keyspan Park was crawling with a wide range of looks, from hipsters in tight jeans with disaffected expressions and greased up hair to the club kids who wore neon colors. I met the guy in the parking lot, where he was blasting Daft Punk from his SUV and pounding Bud Lights like they were going out of style. He offered me beer in a strange gesture of gratitude for scalping him the tickets, and we stood around drinking while fans walked by in Daft Punk Robot outfits, getting stopped on the way to the show by patrolling officers for camera phone pictures.
The Raptures set was true to their reputation, and though it seemed a good number of concertgoers had come only for Daft Punk, people began talking amongst themselves that they would have to look into getting the opening bands albums. The group chose the more dance-friendly hits from both the albums, hitting a fevered pitch with the poppy jam Whoo! Alright Yeah
Uh Huh that had the entire crowd moving by the end. The relatively short set (for a band that a good number of people had anticipated seeing that night) was made even shorter as the band began the first chords of First Gear, only to have Matt Safer on vocals and bass promptly shut the song down, to both the crowd and the bands surprise, because there was something wrong with one of the keyboards. Wow, weve come a long way from playing in the Apple Store, havent we? Aside from a slight case of diva-itis, their performance was superb, and a whole bunch of club kids probably ran home to their iTunes later in the night to do some late-night downloading.
During the lull before Daft Punk came out, either Sebastian or Kavinsky (whichever one I didnt miss while pre-gaming in the parking lot) spun next to a giant black screen that hid the stage, and the crowd instinctively surged forward in one giant, anxious tumor. The screen finally began to rustle, and the crowd was in a full frenzy of expectation, packed as tightly as possible. The famous notes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind began playing, and contact was a few moments away. The curtain was drawn away to reveal a giant black pyramid with the top sectioned off and raised, evoking the symbols of both the Illuminati and the dollar bill. There, in the space between the top and the base, stood Daft Punk, outfitted in full space gear, from the suits that came with gloves to their infamous helmets that made them look like a cross between the old school Sylons from Battlestar Galactica (extra points for major geek reference!) and the space Lego guys I used to play with as a kid. Behind them were two giant screens composed entirely of triangles that initially lit up in synchronized neon, as though we were watching the opening screens for an Atari classic. Things got started immediately with Robot Rock, though the show was more a blend of 25-30 songs cut into a few large segments than an actual set list. Staying true to their roots as DJs, they teased mega-hits like Around the World and One More Time into so many points of the show that the delirious crowd would briefly hit an even higher crescendo before realizing that they were just getting a taste.
If anything, this sense of aural foreplay was a running theme throughout the performance. They would hit the sweet spot every so often, then move back into other tracks that were just as catchy, if not as well known. The light show, on the other hand, was in constant upward movement. It began simply with lit triangles, like those music boxes you and your stoner friends might have tried to build from a kit bought off the internet when you were younger, but new features bled out little by little. The pyramid, previously dark, began running its own show, as it was revealed that video screens comprised all the surfaces. At times running laser lights like those middle school yearbook backgrounds were drifting along, calling to mind days of Dark Side of the Moon at the planetarium, and at other times the screens projected base colors, as though we were playing a stadium-sized game of Simon. Video clips soon came into play, oscillating between collages of obscure images and more discernible ones like faces and eyes. The large back screens soon coordinated their efforts with the pyramid of awesomeness to create a display that might even beat out what would happen if aliens really had decided to land that night in Coney Island.
Daft Punk themselves evinced a lack of emotion and liveliness that managed to complement the spectacular visual effects. While one would give a very album cover-like pose, staring straight out at the audience, the other busied himself with another side of their console, shaking his helmet to the beat in what I can only describe as the kind of dance that really f-ing cool robots are programmed to do instead of trying to learn human emotions. So much about their presence presented a mystery that immediately called to mind conspiracy theories, but somehow added to the power of it all. Was it really Daft Punk in those suits? Could Daft Punk just be a collective of something like 6 guys who rotate on who is going to show up any given night? I mean, doesnt anyone else think that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo is a few too many names for one person? Then there was the question about the music itself. No one dared mention it at the time, but it was completely plausible that they had no hand in any of the music playing from the speakers. Photos revealed that inside the pyramid were various synthesizers, not that this would confirm anything, but it wasnt important.
A line-up like Daft Punk, The Rapture, Sebastian, and Kavinsky will produce an interesting blend of ticket holders, but somehow everyone was united by the time things started getting crazy, if a sea of glowing cell phones held in the air is any indication. Having only listened to a bit of their previous albums, I soon found myself latching on to their repetition-filled compositions, and somehow my love-hate relationship with techno-rave vanished in some strange E-flashback. I began to feel the true message of alienation and simultaneous affection that technology has been bringing to us. Club music had never seemed so profound. Sitting at lunch with your coworkers and describing their music when they tell you they dont know Daft Punk, on the other hand, is a different story. Just like that girl who looked great in the dark confines of the bar, morning will bring a reckoning. Mega-hits like Around the World and One More Time might be widely known, but they also happen to have an inherent cheesiness from the decade in which they prevailed, and it doesnt help that the voice in the latter sounds way too much like Cher in Believe.
In case the show felt more like a DJ set than an actual performance, the duo pulled the old were done
ah, no were not encore routine. There are encores and there are encores, and then there are Daft Punk encores. Live acts, take note. For the final set they appeared in the same outfits, but red lights outlined the entire suits and helmets, producing possibly one of the coolest effects Ive ever seen. They looked like an animated video, and the pyramid began displaying a Tron grid that sucked you right in. When the show was over, the stunned crowd quietly filed out of the show, as if their senses had been too overloaded to process anything further.
One of my friends at the show happened to have an extra ticket for the after-party at Studio B, at which I heard the Rapture might make an appearance, so the executive decision was made to let the next morning at work get shot to hell and go full force to Williamsburg. Studio B had a good crowd, and I began putting down vodka-Red Bulls to get in the mood, having at last given myself over fully to the Ibiza atmosphere. The boys from Ed Banger were on the ones and twos, which could mean that Sebastian and Kavinsky may have come back on. To be honest, I heard a remix of Pharoahe Monchs Simon Says that had been played back at Keyspan, so it certainly could have been one of them. Seriously, guys, you didnt think a few of the people from the show might come to the after-party? I mean, I dont DJ in front of sold-out crowds or anything, but I would have figured they might have had another banger or two that could have taken its place, no offense to the Monch. Busy P, the guy behind the Ed Banger DJs, also got on the turntables for a little while, giving the friend of one of my friends the opportunity to show off his vast (and obnoxious) inside knowledge. He even got excited that the guy was wearing a variation of the shirt he had on. Yeah, this guy was that bad
and he had an iPhone, the official new marker of privilege, which made me hate him even more.
By three oclock it didnt seem like anything was being set up for a band to play, and I began to feel the old man bones creaking. Outside the club a bunch of people seemed to be having the same idea, or they just needed a little air after the musk of not a few of the unshowered faithful had completely saturated their pores. I wound up getting into a conversation with a few guys about some upcoming shows, and took the opportunity to figure out the situation with car services and bargaining prices. They told me $15 was about the going rate for me to get home, so I began walking away from the crowds to get a chance at actually catching a car. I hadnt gotten twenty feet away when a car drove up. I gave him my address and asked him how much, and he told me it was $15. I was so impressed that this guy wasnt even trying to haggle with me that I jumped in.
An hour later, I was at the drive-thru at White Castle by my house with my driver, scanning the menu. It was an impulse decision made while in traffic on the BQE. The Castle had burned me before, especially the next morning, so I decided to stay away from the burger bombs. Besides, I had heard on the radio a week earlier that they were now offering Buffalo Chicken Bites, and my curiosity had been piqued. I got a large for myself a small size for my driver.
Back at my apartment, I settled down to watch whatever cable had to offer at 4 AM. There was absolutely nothing buffalo-esque about the bites, except that they looked a little redder than normal chicken nuggets, were spicy, and came with bleu cheese dressing. I ate them, but I cant say I was terribly satisfied. A few bites later, I realized I still needed to move my car for alternate side parking, so I threw a few more bites into my mouth and went outside. Of course, in my semi-drunk haze, I had absolutely no idea where my car was parked. I walked up and down a few blocks, unable to spot it, and I began to get that anxious feeling you get just when youre leaving the mall and you realize you never checked the row or section of the spot you parked in. I took my roommates bike out, and began drunkenly biking up the lattice of blocks, chugging away on what I discovered was a half-flat front tire, uphill, the barely digested Buffalo Chicken Bites threatening at each pump to make a full drive back into my mouth. Nearly 10 blocks covered, and still nothing. Then it began to rain. Cursing, I dragged the bike back into my apartment and resolved to find my car in the daylight. That was at about 5 AM.
Four hours later, I can barely hear my alarm because the ringing in my ears is deafening. Its pouring out, so I ditch the idea of finding my car for the smart (and lazier) idea of waiting to get a ticket, then looking it up online to see where the car was parked when it was issued. Meanwhile, I spend the entire day at work walking around smelling like a hobo. During my fourth or fifth trip to the bathroom, as a result of crippling stomach pains, I am sitting in the stall and listening to the ringing tone while trying to ignore the horrible stench emanating from beneath. By this point I didnt care who saw me bring a printout of internet articles to read on the throne, and Im not even that interested in the material itself. Im just looking for something to distract me from the nagging worry that: a) I might have lost my car; and b) I might have permanently damaged my hearing. Then I wipe and see a wad of toilet paper thats more blood than anything else, and I know that Ill be sitting gingerly at my cubicle. In short, the Daft Punk show, a performance that is being heralded as the greatest show of the summer of 2007, almost killed me. A huge A+ and two hearing aids for Daft Punk, but failing marks for White Castles Buffalo Chicken Bites. Its not without some degree of admiration that I admit to never expecting even they could find something that causes more intestinal damage than their sliders. - Eric Silver