One of the most important labels of the noughties was, without a doubt, DFA Records. The New York-based imprint not only captured the genre-mashing indie-dance sensibilities of the decade, but managed to do so without falling into overt commercialism and dumbing-down bedevilled trends like electroclash. Finally, arty post-punk bands like Talking Heads and underground disco like Larry Levan's had their natural heirs.
So it was a double treat to see DFA have their own stage at the Sydney leg of the recent Future Music Festival and an after party at the Metro. A few words on the former: To see so many quality acts in one place at a Festival often maligned for its overt commercialism was a delight, and it was great to see the crowds swell repeatedly after a slow start (although the stage's location, tucked away in a corner behind a building left it at a disadvantage). Particular highlights were live performances by Holy Ghost and a revamped Hercules & Love Affair.
But to the after party: As I arrived before midnight, the Future Classic boys were laying down Balearic house to a quickly swelling dance floor, creating some instant reverie with the delirious keys of I:Cube's "Piano in Paradiso." Then the red curtains swept closed, re-opening for post-hardcore guitarist-turned-house producer-DJ Juan MacLean. The New Yorker's set was eclectic—he's become a much better DJ over the years, but there's still somewhat slapdash set construction and erratic blending. In an hour he delivered blaring brass sections, Chicago-esque late '80s drums, Dirtybird-like jack, smooth deepness by Steffi and Maceo Plex, and the all-powerful vocals of Storm Queen.
Photo credit: Alexis Wuillaume
Lest anyone think this may be an unforgiveable programming error, James Murphy (a twitchy presence on stage throughout the night) and Pat Mahoney took over and simply swept things to new levels. It was one of those sets where even a modest BPM could carry you along on the sheer energy of the music, sutured together so deftly that pulling yourself away would be unthinkable. Moving from the piano stabs of Bassfort's "Dixtrit" to the tough Latinism of Kerri Chandler's classic "Coro," they then brought it into softer, trippier territory, even laying down the ultra-rare pop oddity "Goodbye Horses" by Q Lazarus. Things soon picked up again, with recent favourites like the Caribou remix of Virgo Four, the Talabot remix of "Cheaters" and, of course, Storm Queen's "It Goes On." Proving their crate digging credentials was no problem, either, with the sublime NYCC version of "I'll Keep My Light in My Window."
Next it was the double laptop duo of Benoit & Sergio centre stage. Despite a thinning floor leaving the Metro a bit lacking in atmosphere, they decided to attempt to create the party themselves, inspiring frenzy with a reconstruction of their biggest track, "Principles," and bringing their characteristically druggy, melodic tech house vibe. It was clear they were not going to let the party poop out, even if my feet could no longer last the distance after 14 hours.
Hurriedly promoted and regrettably unable to draw the numbers it deserved, the party has to rate as second best compared with the DFA stage earlier in the day. But with Murphy and Mahoney in command at its heart, there was no shortage of twists and thrills to keep dancers and connoisseurs happy.