DFA Records Celebrates 12th Birthday in Brooklyn With Red Bull [Sponsored Post]
There simply isn't a modern successful record label that compares to DFA. Since forming just over a decade ago, the Brooklyn-based company has corralled some of electronic music's most avant-garde performers into a single pen of psychedelic happiness.
James Murphy -- founder of both DFA and its best-known act, LCD Soundsystem -- couldn't be more proud of the empire he's built. On Saturday night (May 25), as the label took over Brooklyn's Grand Prospect Hall to celebrate its 12th birthday as part of the Red Bull Music Academy, the middle-aged rocker stood in a doorway flanked by an army of dance-feigning youths ready to meet the disco messiah.
So began the evening -- a look back at DFA's illustrious history that included performances by the Crystal Ark, Planningtorock, Prinzhorn Dance School, Yacht, S--- Robot and Murphy himself. Other DFA staples like Juan Mclean and the Rapture played inspired DJ sets throughout the night. The venue itself is perhaps Brooklyn's most ostentatious: Giant chandeliers hang from the great hall's ceiling, ornamented in gold leaf and fresco style anchorages. It's appropriate when keeping in mind DFA's colorful roster.
Traversing the four story building, Diffuser.fm and our companion felt as if we were at a Sleep No More party. The only elements missing were masks and gratuitous Shakespearean sex (at least we hope so). On the first floor, dance fans abounded, and the “The Chopin Room” was positively packed to the brim.
There, we caught Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney and the infamous Juan Mclean spinning their favorite records. It was odd that some of DFA’s top acts were spinning while newcomers performed in the Grand Ballroom upstairs. But not every festival is perfect -- there’s always bound to be some unwanted overlap. After an eventful climb up the extremely crowded staircase, we entered the great hall on the second floor, filled with a mix of people and ages.
The Crystal Ark -- a laptop band powered by bongos and electric guitar -- had just taken the stage, and while lead singer Gavin Russom announced his band to joyous cheers, voguing dancers Discos and Alberto got the most praise, frolicking around the stage in space-age onesies. This awesome homage to Aquarius played out underneath DFA’s lightning bolt insignias. Each song chugged along like an intense spiritual ritual, complete with buzzing and screaming Moog synth work. Very cool!
After running into trouble on the press balcony (it was very, very dark, and our badges were, too), we climbed up to the fourth floor to see Dan Bodan perform. Waves of green, blue and purple lasers bathed the room in shards of light. Dan and his DJ played in a dark corner, surrounded by tractor beams and a few strung-out looking fans. He sang as if pleading for a distant lover to stay with him, howling in despair as his androgynous DJ bobbed to the scattered beat. Only after seeing the incredible Crystal Ark and the equally great Bodan did we realize that DFA is quite a wonderful little label. It celebrates the avant-garde, the weird and the whimsical with equal gusto, all in a promise to make you dance.
After refilling our cups (a two-part process involving buying drink tokens, then visiting the bar) we made our way back to the big ballroom, which had become much more crowded. In fact 4,000 people ran amok in this giant wedding-venue-turned-mini-festival-space, which became a sticky situation when visiting the bathroom. The night grew increasingly erratic, though we wouldn't have expected anything less from DFA.
At one point, James Murphy emerged from the “open door” artist den -- designed more as zoo-like exhibit than a refuge for the artists. The greying DFA troubadour wore a shoddy suit and was surrounded by smiling fans his age. He certainly appeared happier than he did the last time we saw him, covered in glitter at a Brooklyn train station in 2009.
One of the biggest highlights of the evening was Berlin-based singer Planningtorock, aka Janine Rostron. She is, quite simply, a formidable force. She stepped out in a black jumper, adorned with her signature facial prosthetic, and led a light show of white strobes. She paired her newest single, 'Misogyny Drop Dead,' with a stirring video that synced perfectly with her live show and uneasy melodies. Rostron was incredibly affable and prone to smiling after each song, but it didn’t take away from her performance-artist setup. At the end of her show, flashing lights created an optical illusion on Rostron’s face that made the crowd cheer in horror and delight.
Even though Diffuser.fm didn’t stay for the entire evening (the party rocked all the way until 4AM), we did get to catch a glimpse at the DFA legacy. The label has something for everyone. There were just as many middle-aged dudes with grey beards and skinny jeans as there were 20-something indie chicks dressed to the nines in black. If you haven’t really checked out DFA yet, you’re missing out on getting your groove on.
This post was produced in collaboration with our advertising partner Red Bull.