Free concerts at a racetrack usually have connotations of washed up good time oldie bands who are a quarter century past their glory years. So it was a unique experience for South Florida hipsters Thursday evening when James Murphy took the stage. Murphy, the mastermind behind LCD Soundsystem, did not sing, nor play an instrument. This was a DJ set where he encouraged a crowd of a few hundred of his devoted fans (along with the occasional gambling degenerate who willed themselves to step away from the slot machines) to dance to a curated evening of soul, disco, and funk.
The festivities began at 8, when concertgoers handed in their RSVP invitations and had an American Flag wristband taped on their arm that allowed them to take advantage of the freebies: the open bar, the complimentary trucker hats, and the t-shirts screen printed in front of you. Old Janet Jackson songs played on the loudspeaker as the crowd frolicked around the fountain where, on race days, the horses are shown off on their way to the starting gate.
At 9 o'clock sharp, Murphy took the stage without saying a word. Looking healthy, clad in a white t-shirt and headphones that he wore over his ears and around his neck, he shuffled through his collection of vinyl with an energy that belied the years shown by his weeks old silver beard that crept above his cheekbones.
At first the crowd all stood at his attention admiring a famous dude's presence even if he wasn't doing what he was famous for (you know, playing/singing). Fifteen minutes into his set Murphy addressed the strangeness of this situation, his only time speaking into a microphone. "It's kind of incredibly hot and sweaty and gross," he said about a typical August night in Florida. "It's kind of weird doing this without anybody playing, but we'll pretend I've been doing this for hours and we're at somebody's house."
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Like that things loosened up. His celebrity was no longer the center of attention and some of the wildest dancing in the history of Gulfstream that didn't involve the winning of money broke out. The only track played that the whole crowd knew was Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and to a lesser extent mixes of Stretch's "Why Did You Do It" and The Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds." An hour forty minutes into it, he left the makeshift stage as quietly as he stepped upon it. The crowd was much sweatier and happier than when they arrived.
Best of all, it didn't cost them a penny.