James Murphy at It'll Do, 11/30: Review
After a few days too full with family, hot stuffing, dry meat, sugary cranberries, and sticky pecan pie, folks rolled out to It'll Do dance club thirsty for a calorie-burning, head-clearing workout. James Murphy, late of LCD Soundsystem, was on the scene to lead us through the cleanse.
DJ Redeye, It'll Do's resident DJ, spun an excellent opening set of speaker-mincing house music. Around midnight, just before giving up the turntable and mixers, Redeye played Roland Clark's "I Get Deep," a legendary joint about dance floor rituals and savior-like DJs. Clark chants: "Raising both hands in the air as if Jesus was the DJ himself spinning those funky, funky, house beats . . . Sanctified like an old lady in church: we get happy, we stomp our feet, we clap our hands, we shout, we crowd, we dance and say, 'Sweet Lord, speak to me, speak to me, speak to me'. . ."
It was a perfect segue into Murphy's set. With his shaggy haircut, pudgy midsection, and graying beard, Murphy was like a dharma shaman spinning jams to alter states. Dance music is about ritual. And allthe shimmy-shake-strutting, booty-bump-grinding, step-slide-shoulder-shifting Murphy had us cutting through the club made the space into temple. Thirty minutes into his work, Murphy mixed hammering beats over and into Chicago's "I'm A Man" and it sounded like a riff on would-be theme song -- "I Am the Man."
Merging beats through and around disco and soul cuts, a weird remix of Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," post-punk gems like Orange Juice's "Rip It Up," and Afro-beat numbers, Murphy moved us into the mystic for three-hours.
At the end, Murphy marked the fine line between Saturday night revelry and Sunday morning spirituality, with Bill Withers' exuberant, "Harlem." Withers' song exalts both Harlem's grimy funk and its elemental soul. Built on a marching groove, Booker T. Jones' organ licks undergird the song and the soaring, proto-disco string-section propels it. With each key change, music grows louder and more urgent behind Withers' gutteral tenor:
Saturday night in Harlem, and everything's alright. You can really swing and shake your pretty thing, the parties are out of sight.
Sunday morning, here in Harlem, now everybody's all dressed up
All the hip folks are just gettin' home from the party
And the good folks just got up . . .
It was nearly 3:00 a.m., but looping another pounding drum track around Withers' hook kept Murphy at full tilt.