The order goes a little something like this: LCD Soundsystem is booked as a festival headliner, the size of their crowd is extremely small, they put on a fantastic show, everyone has more room to dance because the crowd is so small, rinse, repeat. Such was the case at Coachella, and such was the case at Bonnaroo 2016 on Friday night (June 10); this is how James Murphy’s unlikely reunion voyage is going to play out from to now until whenever he’s finally lost his whole edge.
With Pearl Jam and The Dead serving as the other two headliners this weekend, LCD Soundsystem stuck out like a sore thumb on the lineup, an NYC-bred nostalgia trip invading the space so often held by classic rock. Bonnaroo isn’t a cool-kid convention like Coachella, or a New York festival like Panorama (which LCD will headline next month). The fact that J. Cole easily outdrew LCD Soundsystem on the main stage on Friday underlined that, yeah, LCD is a little bit out of their comfort zone here.
That didn’t slow them down at all. LCD Soundsystem’s Bonnaroo set was one of the clear-cut highlights of the day and of the group’s comeback, a euphorically frantic showcase of their three albums and a full-on percussion assault. The beats literally never let up as the group glided from one song to the next, plowing ahead as their onlookers were trying to catch their breath.
The group has been playing the same set list (more or less) since coming back in March, but some of the transitions are just… magical. The back-to-back wallop of “Tribulations” and “Movement” got some members of the crowd literally head-banging, and the finale of “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends” encapsulates everything to love about this hipster-approved group. Fireworks exploded at the finale, but the real pyrotechnics came with set opener “Us v Them,” which immediately introduced the proficiency and kinetic energy this long-dormant group can bring in the span of five minutes. If you had showed up to LCD as an unfamiliar listener—or because no other performances were concurrent, and you had to do something—you were probably shaking your ass within the first five minutes.
Murphy talked about being hung over. He talked about it being smelly onstage, as if a porta-potty had been knocked over and left to rot behind the stage. He played the hits in a graying beard, and looked quite delighted while doing so. He likely understands that LCD Soundsystem is punching above its weight, but doesn’t care, and will dance the night away on that too-big stage. In that point, we can learn a lot from him.
If you can't be at Bonnaroo in person, be sure to watch the official Bonnaroo Livestream on Fuse.tv throughout the weekend.