Two bands used the New York City skyline as the backdrop of their sets at the Main stage on day two of this year’s FYF Fest.
One shown stock footages of the city overlapped with clips of black dancers and ballerinas. The other rendered it like an 8-bit video game menu screen.
It’s probably not hard to guess which one was the obligatory nostalgia band of the festival.
“I’m losing my edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered ‘80s,” quipped LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy in his band’s name-making single, “Losing My Edge,” toward the end of the set. His frustrations to the “internet seekers” in the song, released in 2005, subsequently raised him into a cult hero, who seemed to see through music industry bullshit before he called an end to his band in 2011. But it all came full circle as the reunited band borrowed a good amount of nostalgia for the not-so-old past to satisfy the die hards who thought their opportunity to experience the band live was off the table.
Behind a back-drop of the arcade-game-style skyscrapers, Murphy sang “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” the song that closed the night of the band’s farewell show at Madison Square Garden. Thankfully it wasn’t the finale of the night at FYF because he stumbled over a few lyrics in the beginning.
“Oh goodness,” he sighed, quickly trying to reach for the lyrics that followed. The band was workmanlike up until the brief mishap, nailing every note like nothing has passed during the five years they were gone. Murphy tripping up returned the night to the present day after spending an hour reliving the past.
For me, the experience felt more like an opportunity to fulfill a promise made by a younger self. I admittedly don’t listen to LCD Soundsystem so much anymore, partly because I want something else from music than when the band was still around making records.
It’s exactly like Murphy said once in a song of his: “Sound of silver, talk to me. Makes you want to feel like a teenager until you remember the feelings of a real-life emotional teenager. And then you think again.”
Blood Orange, meanwhile, was the artist of the day. Dev Hynes and his band performed behind sunlit stills of the New York City skyscrapers. His music, too, embodied a sense of dance-music nostalgia, one warmer, smoother and much more welcome than Murphy’s. For one, I felt less pressure to have previous knowledge about Blood Orange to enjoy the music.
Much like Murphy, Hynes was surrounded by his friends — and not just the main musicians in his band. Zuri Marley, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sky Ferreira, Empress Of, and Nelly Furtado all showed up to perform their collaborations with Hynes, many being the respective duets featured in the new Blood Orange album, Freetown Sound. The all-smiles exchange between Hynes and each of his guests confirmed they weren’t just collaborators but people who share genuine kinship.
The biggest difference, though, was that Hynes’ music tapped into the issues of the hot present while providing a familiar taste of the past. He opened with “Augustine” from the new album. Over dry, thick drum-machine thwacks, he meditated upon racial violence and mourned its victims in the single. In “Juicy 1–4,” he grows impatient for solutions to the chaos but still he prays. He dealt with heartbreak, isolation, discrimination and many other dark places of his life in front of a huge audience all the while making many dance along joyfully to the sun-kissed grooves.
What Hynes did on stage is a mighty difficult feat to achieve, at least from what I gathered during the festival that day. While Anohni addressed her qualms about global politics to the audience, the crowd may have been intimidated by her stark presentation, a confrontational video piece with a massive screening of head shots of different actresses singing in sync with her; Anohni obscured herself in a black robe, standing on an unlit stage. Young Thug struggled to win his audience, with the rapper failing on his strategy to convince through sheer charisma and technical skills. LCD Soundsystem delivered, though they added nothing really new to what they’re already known to do.
The closest contender was The Black Madonna, a DJ who the crowd trusted to bring dance-floor heat during her two-hour set no matter how weird the rhythms got. She also squeezed in some time toward the end to bring a friend, pop singer Robyn, as she played the remix of her guest’s 2010 song, “Indestructible.”
There was one new lesson to be learned from LCD Soundsystem’s set, however.
“Man, if you missed Grace Jones, you really fucked up,” Murphy said about the headlining legend who played before his band played.
With deep regret, I missed out on her set. And that’s a piece of the future’s past I’ll look back with shame.