All photos by Timothy Norris
Have you ever felt washed? I’m not talking slightly weary because you only got 5 hours of sleep and haven’t had enough coffee. I’m talking existentially hobbled. Your brain feels like a withered sponge, your bones are dust, your blood feels pestilential and desperate for transfusion. We’re talking Keith Richards’ face washed. Staying in on a Saturday night to do your taxes with a cracked laptop and a bootleg copy of TurboTax washed. Quit everything and open a Laundromat washed.
The thing about being washed is that it’s not the exclusive province of the aged. The first time I ever truly felt washed was on my 22nd birthday. I was five months out of college and a friend named Elliot, who was still a junior, showed up at my apartment with four 40s of Old English and two blunts. Desperate to show that the the working world hadn’t turned me into a desiccated corpse, I quickly downed both of my 40s, smoked both blunts, freestyled poorly with my roommate Davey Crockett, and then destroyed half of a frozen pizza and some cornbread topped with chili.
For about an hour that night, I passed out on the carpet of my bedroom, taking the occasional break to vomit. The next morning, I woke up and attempted to get breakfast at my favorite coffee shop down the street. I felt like a straight-to-DVD Van Wilder sequel and looked like an advertisement for early retirement. At breakfast, I ran into my ex-girlfriend with her new man. I ordered green tea and a bagel with cream cheese, figuring something so mild might ease my still roiling stomach. After eating, I slowly walked home but only made it 85 feet before vomiting onto Eagle Rock Blvd. That, my friends, is fucking washed.
LCD Soundsystem is a band founded on the fear of being washed. James Murphy’s first big single was a sarcastic truth-in-jest admission of being washed by better-looking people with better ideas and more talent. So they were the perfect band to see on Friday night at Coachella, because last night was the most ludicrously washed I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
There are excuses I can give for my washosity, but you don’t care. Look, I’d been writing all day (about Kobe Bryant and his triumph over the wash) on very little sleep and then I had to cross the molly trail of tears just to enter. I fought valiantly against my physical limitations. I popped two capsules, smoked three spliffs, but my body ferociously rejected them. You know you’re washed when your bloodstream is 34 percent MDMA, you’re surrounded by 100,000 people on a polo field littered with glowsticks, and you just want to nap.
If you’ve read Twitter dot com at any point in the last four months, you’re probably aware that LCD Soundsystem has reunited. The whole thing is somewhat preposterous because they’ve only been broken up for five years. That’s really just a long hiatus or an extended sabbatical, but what’s the point in complaining. They’re one of the best bands in a world where all the people who would ostensibly be in the best bands sold their guitars to buy turntables and then a new copy of Ableton.
We can speculate all day why James Murphy got them back together, but I’m sure the answer was money. Solo DJ sets are cool and all, but when you can get a million bucks a pop to play every festival all summer, you do it. How else are you supposed to afford a Williamsburg waterfront condo? How else can you pay the rent on the Brooklyn wine bar that you own (the entrepreneurial act of the washed connoisseur)?
They took the stage five minutes early at 11:05 p.m., which might be a first in the history of Coachella. Classic washed behavior—like when you meet your grandparents for dinner and they call ten minutes before the planned meeting time asking when you’re going to arrive.
Channeling David Byrne with the oversized suit and tie, James Murphy might be the closest thing we’ll get to the Talking Heads frontman. He set it off with “Us Vs. Them,” pregnant with cowbell, the instrument that might as well be the Madeleine for the washed—inciting nostalgia for when “dance-punk” didn’t need air quotes and The Rapture reportedly taught white people to dance for the first time in recorded history (with a song produced by Murphy).
Disco balls are strung across the field, giant white balloons float through the crowd, and the six-piece band lights into a groove, foregrounding splintering epileptic LED lights. A clump of hurled glow sticks pelts me and everyone nearby, causing a washed bro next to me to loudly yell, “We get it you do drugs! It’s fine!”
But by the time the song nears its conclusion, my fellow misanthropic washed bro turns to me and asks me to switch places. “I’m going to go dance with these assholes,” he says, pointing at his friends.
LCD Soundsystem produces a peculiar affect on people. In a music environment that increasingly compartmentalizes dance artists (A banger? Or not a banger?), James Murphy’s crew defies pigeonholing. They’re nominally a funk band or a disco ensemble in the vein of chic, but they do ballads, psychedelic bluesy stomps, straight up rock and roll too—a DJ set in old-fashioned group taxonomy. They make otherwise stolid bros feel emotions they usually only felt when they didn’t get into their fraternity of choice. They can be raw or polished, hard-core or minimal techno smooth.
The crate-digger references and refinement satisfy art-kids and music snobs. They leaven the sincerity with caustic wit; the grooves are taut but jammy, elastic without losing shape. They might not be for everyone, but they do everything well.
Constrained by Coachella curfews, the rumpled Murphy barely addresses the crowd other than to introduce the members of his band and apologize for the absence of Greatest Washed Rapper alive, Jay Z, who joined them the last time LCD played Coachella. They’re both 46, seemingly with their best days behind them. But give Murphy plenty of credit, he’s turned washed-dom into high art, transmuted fear into fuel.
After five years off, he’s proving that he still deserves a spot as one of the best musicians in the world, no matter how cluttered the dance scene has gotten since his first exit.
“Daft Punk is Playing My House” blasts. The biggest single from the first album, written before French House legends introduced the new generation of West Coast bros in 2007.
As if to prove this point, two shirtless bench-press bros groove, hoisted on shoulders, high-fiving as though Daft Punk had just shown up to their two bedroom condo in Studio City.
The entire set—a precise hour and fifty minutes—was seamless, evidence that their documentary title “Shut Up and Play the Hits” wasn’t entirely a joke. They might not make commercial songs, but almost all of these are anthems to hundreds of thousands. The high water mark was fittingly “You Wanted a Hit,” stretched out to nearly 10 minutes, a beautiful grove that changed pace effortlessly, a spell that hypnotized even me, making me forget my washed broken-brain and body, and feel lost in the music. I didn’t feel great, but I felt better and that’s enough. One of those super corny moments that sounds embarrassing to write down the next day, but I know you have them too, and if you don’t, I’m sorry.
The spell naturally snaps as the song nears its end. A bro in a giraffe suit bumps me, holding a glowing spinning orb, attempting to find his friends. This is Coachella after all. You can probably guess the other highlights. They drop the haunting “Someone Great,” a poignant meditation on death—the ultimate wash. They cover “Heroes” by David Bowie, who somehow managed never to be washed, or at least was savvy enough to hide it from everyone else.
There’s “New York, I Love You,” an examination of the metropolis as washed. He offers a little riff on “November Rain,” a tribute to tonight’s headliners Guns N’ Roses—who have been washed since they were 30 (and if you don’t believe me, I have several Velvet Revolver CDs to sell you or you can just Google “Axl Rose cornrows.”)
They end with “All My Friends,” which is about missing the friends who you came up with. Some dead, some living across the country, some just permanently washed and working in commercial real estate. It happens to us all, at least sometimes, and if there is a genius to Murphy’s songwriting, it’s in that honesty—that willingness to let in self-doubt and neuroses and transcend it. He might look washed. He probably feels washed most nights after midnight. But even though he’s comfortably middle-aged, he proved that being washed is a state of mind, one we don’t need to succumb to.
As I leave, I think about this the whole walk back to the car, doing my best to combine sleep, mild contemplation, and walking without knocking into a florescent tank top. When we finally make it to the car, we’re stuck in an interminable queue of traffic. For a while, we idle alongside a BMW with dealer plates, until a 30-something bro in the backseat motions for me to roll the window down.
“Pardon me…” the bro says with fake British accent and a hoodie cinched around his drooping eyes. “Do you have any Grey Poupon?”
Then he tries to speed off, but there’s nowhere to go. He inches past us, and gets out of his car, wearing a brand-new Coachella ‘16 hoodie, board shorts and flip flops. He grabs a Red Bull that was perched precariously on the trunk of the slow-moving Lexus in front of us. He opens it, takes a huge swig of the energy drink, then takes another gulp from the can of beer in his other hand. It was the most washed thing I’ve ever seen and it was glorious. Then he looks at me and nods, neither of us needing to speak. We understand each other.
Jeff Weiss ins't really washed. Yet. Follow him on Twitter.