Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Daft Punk’d

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to even begin to try to write something about what I witnessed two weeks ago in the desert outside Las Vegas. And in many ways I feel like one of those people who stumbles out of the desert saying he saw a UFO or God or whatever and knows no one is going to believe him. How could you?

But then last night I came into possession of a bootleg of the Daft Punk show from that night. Between that and the pictures and videos I’m now pretty sure what I saw was real.

I’ve also come to the realization that if it wasn't the best concert I’ve ever been to, it's at least in the top three. That, my friends, is some high-ass praise. Bold-ass praise, even. Especially coming from me.

But now when I throw the best shows I've ever been to up against it, it appears Daft Punk may very well have wrangled away the top spot in terms of “the best concert I’ve ever seen.”


Sure, there were contributing factors to my experience, but from everything I’ve read, everyone there saw the same stunner of a show.

I’d been introduced to Daft Punk in the late 90’s I guess, but it was during one my periods of rock and roll superiority so I’d always seen them as a little too “house” and a little too “French.” Sadly, I had no idea how much “rock” they pack into their live shows. So over the last year or so I’d read about these rare live shows (they don’t perform often at all, especially here in the states) they’d been putting on involving a glowing pyramid and a light show the likes of which the world has never seen. And I’d heard it was not to be missed.

Yet that night, when I found myself out on the field in the few moments before it started, I had no idea what I was in for.

I remember Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas” was playing and people were milling about and taking their places. Then the lights went down and that five-note tone from Close Encounters began to fill the air. The next hour and half were a blur of jaw-dropping, mind-expanding, unfrikkinbelievable sound and visuals. I’ve never seen anything like it. And doubt I ever will.

I’ve seen hundreds of shows but none that reinvented what a live show could be the way they did. They didn’t speak, they didn’t take off their helmets, there wasn’t a traditional instrument on the stage. There were just two guys atop a glowing pyramid twiddling knobs. And wearing space helmets.

This may very well have all been in my head but the whole concept of “human” and “robot” was very intriguing to me (they opened with a song called "Robot Rock" which involves heavy use and display of the word "Robot" and then encored with "Human after all" which was just the opposite). I mean, while you're mind is being blown wide open by the positively deepest, dopest, deadliest, filthiest beats and breaks you’ve ever heard and your eyes are trying to process all the frikkin’ brain-melting visuals and brighter-than-the-sun lights, you’re pondering the concept of all this electronic sound and who’s driving it. Is it human? Or is it robot? Is it kind of both? Oh right, it’s two guys in space helmets. Atop a glowing pyramid.

It was like being in that future we all dreamed about growing up. The one that was kind of like Tron and involved computers and lights doing really awesome things. The one where we all drove flying cars and wore those Mork-From-Ork shiny suits all day and our food came in pill form. The future I’m personally still holding out for.

Then all of a sudden the show was over and Elvis’s “Can’t help falling in love with you” is coming over the PA. It was like a time warp. Or like someone let off the fast forward button. It was like our whole bodies just got sucked back down the wormhole we’d been in for an hour and half. Suddenly, via music, we’d all gone from some point deep in the future right back to where rock and roll all began: listening to Elvis.

And there I was. My body was standing in the middle of the desert outside Las Vegas in late October 2007 wondering what in the world just happened. And wondering how, after 33 years, was I suddenly rethinking everything I’d ever thought I knew about music and definitely live performance.

I’ve listened to little else since returning home. I’ve talked about little else since returning home. I’ve thought about little else since returning home.

This was no show. This was an experience.

If I had to sum it up in 24 seconds of video (and I do since I was so entranced I didn’t shoot but like two pictures), I’d say it was kind of like this:

If I had 40 more seconds, I’d give you this:

Or this:

And this is how it all ended.

If you're curious like I was in terms of what's in the pyramid, behold.

If you’re keen to listen to the whole thing, here is a big-ass mp3 of it:
The Full Vegoose Show


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